In Other Words

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Reading in Italian arouses a similar longing in me. Because every day there will be a new word to learn. Thus true love can represent eternity. In every violent passion a dark side. If only literature worked that way. This book, which is presented in a dual-language format Italian on the left-hand pages, English on the right , chronicles a long obsession. Lahiri first traveled to Italy in , as a college student. She returned frequently over the years, often on trips to promote her books.

She began to study Italian and, living in Brooklyn, hired a series of language tutors. She achieved near-total immersion. Lahiri captures how, for example, the sounds other cultures make can tweak our synapses and linger in the mind.

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As if the whole city were a theater in which a slightly restless audience is chatting before the show begins. She is incisive about being caught between Bengali and English when young, and not feeling entirely at ease in either.

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In Other Words Quotes Showing of Because words bring back everything: the place, the people, the life, the streets, the life, the sky, the flowers, the sounds. When you live without your own language you feel weightless and, at the same time, overloaded. Your breathe another type of air, at a different altitude. You are always aware of the difference. It stimulates.

In Other Words, Water | The Bill Lane Center for the American West

The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive. And a life? In the end, it seems to me, the same thing.

Just as a word can have many dimensions, many nuances, great complexity, so, too, can a person, a life. Language is the mirror, the principal metaphor. Because ultimately the meaning of a word, like that of a person, is boundless, ineffable. It can represent, even today, the ferocity of our ignorance.

To write in a new language, to penetrate its heart, no technology helps.

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What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren't aware of before. We want to transform ourselves, just as Ovid's masterwork transformed me. A day when I can read in Italian without tools, the way I read in English?

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I like the effort. I prefer the limitations.

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I know that in some way my ignorance is useful to me. It can migrate, it can spread. Yet ultimately a desire is nothing but a crazy need.

In Other Words, Water

A text both private and public. On the one hand it springs from my other books. The themes, ultimately, are unchanged: identity, alienation, belonging. But the wrapping, the contents, the body and soul are transfigured. These reactions don't surprise me. A transformation, especially one that is deliberately sought, is often perceived as something disloyal, threatening.

My mother tongue, Bengali, is foreign in America. When you live in a country where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement.

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