Jhumpa Lahiri offers a very good comparison for what it feels like to immerse oneself totally in a new language. Setting out to learn Italian, she writes, was as if she were sgoing off every day into the woods, carrying a basket. All day, she picked words with a hunger that felt insatiable. And when she had gathered enough, she wrote a book, in Italian. Here, that book appears in Italian and English, the original text on the left-hand side, the translation on the right. Best known for her widely admired fiction, Lahiri has ventured into new fields with this book. In Other Words is an essay on the art of rendering thoughts and ideas into an unfamiliar tongue so effectively and smoothly that they cease to be translation.
Lahiri did not, however, come to it altogether cold. Born to Bengali parents in the United States, she spoke almost no English at all until she was sent to school at the age of four. She grew up, she says, a ‘linguistic exile’. Intrigued by words, she learned enough Latin