by Jhumpa Lahiri
translated from the Italian by the author
from the January 29, 2018 issue of The New Yorker
I am a big fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, particularly her debut story collection Interpreter of Maladies (particularly the first story in that collection “A Temporary Matter”; some of my thoughts here). I was a bit sad when a few years ago she announced she was moving to Italy and would be writing in Italian from here on out. She took this seriously. In 2015, she published In altre parole, which she wrote in Italian. When the book came out in English in 2016 as In Other Words it was translated by Anne Goldstein.
While writing in Italian, though, she came to know Domenico Starnone. She fell in love with his book Ties and decided to translate it into English (Ties is a very good book, which I reviewed here). She states in her interview with Cressida Leyshon (here) that “[t]ranslating Starnone has been fundamental to my recent creative journey,” and “the first time I wanted to work again in English after barricading myself behind Italian, and this has restored a sense of equilibrium.”
We are the beneficiaries of this restored equilibrium. Lahiri is a fine writer, and it’s nice to have her delicate English sentences. Now, not only will we get more of her translating work later this year when Europa Editions publishes Starnone’s Trick, but we have this new short story, “The Boundary.” Lahiri still seems to be avoiding new work in English, and actually wrote “The Boundary” in Italian and then translated it into English herself. Lahiri explains well how the practice of translating, even her own work, has affected her; I highly recommend reading her interview with Leyshon.
I plan on reading the story over lunch today and look forward to it very much. I also look forward to hearing your thoughts, so please feel free to comment below, as always!