Jhumpa Lahiri is a very famous writer who is particularly dear to many students of Italian.
As a matter of fact, she has written In altre parole, one of the most popular books about learning Italian, a book that many students have read – either in Italian or in English – and that many have loved.
I have read In altre parole many years ago and I am one of those who fell in love with it. As you may know, Jhumpa Lahiri has written that book in Italian and her mastery of the Italian language is really incredible. Yet the thing I loved the most about the book is her absolute love for the Italian language.
As I wrote in a post about it, In altre parole is undoubtedly a book about learning Italian but it is also a touching declaration of love for the Italian language. The writer describes the struggles of learning a foreign language during adulthood but also tells how her passion for the language has always guided her. It’s an incredibly inspiring book and a mandatory read if you are a student of Italian too.
In altre parole was the first book I read by Jhumpa Lahiri and went ahead with The Namesake, a novel that tells the story of an Indian family who moves to the US in the 1960s and has to face all the challenges that come with being an immigrant in a new place you need to call home. I loved that novel a lot and had other titles by Lahiri on my list when I learned that she had written another book in Italian.
I was just too curious and bought it right away. The book is Dove mi trovo – which you can find in English as Whereabouts, translated by the author – and is not really a novel but more of a collection of thoughts and reflections. It is a really different format from what I had previously read from Lahiri but I have found it really interesting anyway.
The book is basically about a woman who lives in a lovely neighborhood of an unnamed city in Italy and who tells about her daily life, her encounters, her adventures, her mundane routine. Even if this is not said, you immediately have the feeling that the book refers to the authors’ solitary life in Rome.
Even if I had to get used to this new format, I have really enjoyed what I feel was a collection of short stories about the same person and the same life, woven together very beautifully. It was as if at every chapter the curtains opened and I could get some insight into the mind and soul of this woman in a foreign city.
I loved the melancholy that pervaded most of the book and the reflections on solitude and on living alone in a foreign city. I also loved the celebration of ordinary life and the feeling that you are basically walking along with the author, who shares with you her private thoughts and musings.
As I said, the format of this book is quite unusual, especially if you are used to other Lahiri’s writings, so I won’t recommend it if you like books with a structure. I normally do not like short stories and poetry but I have really enjoyed this book, so I might give it a try if you are interested in reading something calming, beautifully written, and full of reflections about life.
Speaking of the Italian language, the fact that there are so many really short chapters each with its own story makes it a very good read for students of Italian. The language might be a bit complex at times but not intimidating at all, so I’d definitely give it a try.
Have you read this book? What is your opinion about it?
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