the next good book

Translating Myself and Others

By Jhumpa Lahiri


198 pages

What’s it about?

Jhumpa Lahiri made a decision to immerse herself in the Italian language and then write in Italian.  This then led her to contemplate what it means to translate works from one language to another.  From this contemplation a series of essays has emerged.  Each essay differs in its focus, but all bring light to the deep and intense reading that must occur during the translation process.

What did it make me think about?

What a tedious, exacting, and illuminating work translating must be.

Should I read it?

This was an exercise in thoughtful contemplation for me.  Each essay is different and I found myself the most drawn to the essay titled “Extraordinary Translation”.  In this essay Lahiri looks back on Letters from Prison a work by Antonio Gramsci.  For me, all of the essays were challenging.  They are thoughtful and interesting- but not entertaining.  When I finished Ann Patchett’s series of essays I thought- “Oh, I relate to you, we could be friends”- when I finished this series of essays I think- “Wow, I am a pretty shallow reader at best…”  This book is for all those that longed to be English majors.


“A translation implies a relationship that is at once intimate and imperfect between two texts, notions, realities, moments.  Reading Gramsci’s letters, one understands how his personal relationships- with his wife, mother, sister-in-law, brother, children, and others- are also both intimate and imperfect.  Reading Gramsci’s letters, one realizes that every interpersonal relationship can be read as a from of translation.”

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