Jhumpa Lahiri on Translation: Unbuilding Walls, Expanding Cultural Horizons
In the past few years, Jhumpa Lahiri has become a translator, a practice that carries intense personal and political meaning for her and about which she is theorizing in sophisticated and yet accessible ways. After learning Italian and living in Italy for a while, Lahiri has embraced translation as a main creative and intellectual activity in the footsteps of several canonical writers from around the world who believe/d that writing is about languages.
A courageous choice for an acclaimed fiction writer like her, whose position in the Anglophone world has been established for a long time, translation allows her to rethink herself as a person and a writer at a time in which monolithic forms of cultural and linguistic belonging continue to persist, and are actually growing in extreme forms. Back in 2000, Lahiri published a short story penetratingly titled “Interpreter of Maladies” and pivoting around the individual and social implications of traveling between languages.
Almost two decades later, she has worked on a ponderous book, in which she functioned as both editor and translator in part, The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories. In its introduction, she uncompromisingly states: “Only translations can expand the literary horizon, open doors, and knock down walls.” This powerful statement will be the starting point for a conversation about the crucial role of translation in today’s world as an art and a political tool, and even a revolutionary act, that speaks to (pun intended) all of us, regardless of our cultural backgrounds, socio-economic extraction, professional and student roles, and personal interests. Please join us for an evening which promises to be a fascinating journey across borders.