Photo of Lahiri Jumpa

In Other Wor(l)ds: Jhumpa Lahiri on the Italian Language and Culture as a Place of Creative Freedom

‌Monday October 5, 2015 – 6.30-8.30pm
University Hall 7th Floor Conference Center

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As an established writer in one language, how does one “relocate” to another language and another culture? This lecture/conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri -recent recipient of the National Humanities Medal- will focus on her recent book written in Italian and entitled In altre parole, and limn some of the creative struggles and rewards of the choice to live in a foreign world and to write in foreign words.

In Altre Parole by Jhumpa Lahiri

The exploration of the beauty and richness of the Italian language acquires unexpected meanings when it is undertaken by a prominent writer in today’s literary landscape (The NamesakeInterpreter of Maladies, among other works), whose link to Italy is exclusively shaped by an aesthetic affinity.‌Lahiri’s award-winning books are well known for their inquiry into the experience of people caught between two countries, worlds, and languages, namely the Indian one of the author’s parents and the American one of her own experience. Less well known is her deep interest in Italian culture and language, or as she terms it, her “love affair” with it. The title of the program uses her book’s title, which means “in other words,” as a springboard to discuss not just language but also the broader experience of traveling through a different culture, its values and myths, and its artistic patrimony, in order to try to find a place within it. Lahiri’s tenacious and lyrical approach to the learning of a foreign language like Italian, which constitutes an object of desire for her and today “a new home,” is a fascinating story of risky exploration, formal control, as well as emotional closeness and creative challenge that promises to engage a diverse audience.

The presentation will be in English and Italian with consecutive translation.


Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London in 1967. The daughter of Indian immigrants from the state of West Bengal, she was taken by her family to the United States at the age of two. In the 1990s, after earning her B.A. in English Literature, Lahiri visited Florence for a vacation, a life-changing experience that prompted her to study Italian and eventually to write a dissertation on the Italian Palazzo for her Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies at Boston University. Since then, Lahiri has continued to entertain an active relationship with Italy, which recently culminated in a stay as a “writer in residence” at the American Academy of Rome and the publication of a series of essays written in Italian and collected in the volume In altre parole (due out in a bilingual edition by Knopf in 2016). Her debut short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies‌, released in 1999, sold over one million copies and received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. After winning a Guggenheim Fellowship, in 2003 Lahiri published The Namesake‌, her first novel, which then became a movie released in 2007 and directed by Mira Nair. In 2013, her novel The Lowland‌ was placed on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize and then long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction. Lahiri lives in Brooklyn and has recently been appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University. On September 10th, she received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama at the White House.


Jhumpa Lahiri’s official website and official bio
Video Interview with Jhumpa Lahiri (in Italian)
Video Interview with Jhumpa Lahiri for (in Italian)
Featured article by Giovanni De Mauro in L’Internazionale (in Italian)
Featured article by Sheila Pierce in The Financial Times (in English)
“My Life’s Sentences”, article by Jhumpa Lahiri for The New York Times (in English)
Selection of articles on Lahiri

Photo credit: Marco Delogu

Please Note: A student contest has been created in connection with this event to let students of Italian get inspired by Jhumpa Lahiri’s use of metaphors to describe the process of learning Italian. The contest invites students to create their own metaphor. Participate in the contest.

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