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Translating Myself and Others

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Luminous essays on translation and self-translation by the award-winning writer and literary translator Translating Myself and Others is a collection of candid and disarmingly personal essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, who reflects on her emerging identity as a translator as well as a writer in two languages. With subtlety and emotional immediacy, Lahiri Luminous essays on translation and self-translation by the award-winning writer and literary translator Translating Myself and Others is a collection of candid and disarmingly personal essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, who reflects on her emerging identity as a translator as well as a writer in two languages. With subtlety and emotional immediacy, Lahiri draws on Ovid's myth of Echo and Narcissus to explore the distinction between writing and translating, and provides a close reading of passages from Aristotle's Poetics to talk more broadly about writing, desire, and freedom. She traces the theme of translation in Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks and takes up the question of Italo Calvino's popularity as a translated author. Lahiri considers the unique challenge of translating her own work from Italian to English, the question "Why Italian?," and the singular pleasures of translating contemporary and ancient writers. Featuring essays originally written in Italian and published in English for the first time, as well as essays written in English, Translating Myself and Others brings together Lahiri's most lyrical and eloquently observed meditations on the translator's art as a sublime act of both linguistic and personal metamorphosis.


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Luminous essays on translation and self-translation by the award-winning writer and literary translator Translating Myself and Others is a collection of candid and disarmingly personal essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, who reflects on her emerging identity as a translator as well as a writer in two languages. With subtlety and emotional immediacy, Lahiri Luminous essays on translation and self-translation by the award-winning writer and literary translator Translating Myself and Others is a collection of candid and disarmingly personal essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, who reflects on her emerging identity as a translator as well as a writer in two languages. With subtlety and emotional immediacy, Lahiri draws on Ovid's myth of Echo and Narcissus to explore the distinction between writing and translating, and provides a close reading of passages from Aristotle's Poetics to talk more broadly about writing, desire, and freedom. She traces the theme of translation in Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks and takes up the question of Italo Calvino's popularity as a translated author. Lahiri considers the unique challenge of translating her own work from Italian to English, the question "Why Italian?," and the singular pleasures of translating contemporary and ancient writers. Featuring essays originally written in Italian and published in English for the first time, as well as essays written in English, Translating Myself and Others brings together Lahiri's most lyrical and eloquently observed meditations on the translator's art as a sublime act of both linguistic and personal metamorphosis.

30 review for Translating Myself and Others

  1. 4 out of 5

    luce ❀ wishfully reading ❀

    ❀ blog ❀ thestorygraph ❀ letterboxd ❀ tumblr ❀ ko-fi ❀ “Writing in another language reactivates the grief of being between two worlds, of being on the outside. Of feeling alone and excluded.” While I can’t quite satisfyingly articulate or express why I find such comfort in Jhumpa Lahiri's writing, I can certainly make a stab at it. In many ways, Translating Myself and Others reads like a companion piece to In Other Words, as Lahiri once again reflects on her relationship to languages, in particul ❀ blog ❀ thestorygraph ❀ letterboxd ❀ tumblr ❀ ko-fi ❀ “Writing in another language reactivates the grief of being between two worlds, of being on the outside. Of feeling alone and excluded.” While I can’t quite satisfyingly articulate or express why I find such comfort in Jhumpa Lahiri's writing, I can certainly make a stab at it. In many ways, Translating Myself and Others reads like a companion piece to In Other Words, as Lahiri once again reflects on her relationship to languages, in particular, English and Italian, and the precarious act of literary translation. These essays are profoundly insightful, eloquently written, and erudite without being inaccessible. Lahiri’s illuminating meditations on writing and translating draw from her own personal experiences and from those of others, as many of the essays included in this collection expand on the works, ideas, and experiences of other authors and historical figures, many of whom Italian. Lahiri’s interrogation of their work, which hones in on their multilingualism and their own efforts with translation and self-translation, added an intratextual dimension to her essays, one that enriched her overall analysis. In many of these essays, Lahiri focuses in particular on her relationship to the Italian language: from the way people have questioned her choice to study this language and the validity of her written Italian, to the feelings brought about by writing in and speaking Italian. In her speculations and contemplations on languages (who do they belong to? and if they do, to whom and why?), writing & translation Lahiri often refers to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in particular the myth of Echo and Narcissus. In examining the acts of translation and self-translation Lahiri utilizes many apt metaphors, viewing translating as a ‘door’, a form of ‘blindness’ (this one is a bit unahappy comparison to make), a ‘graft’, a ‘traversing’, an act of negotiation and metamorphoses. I also appreciated her contemplations on the function played by writers and translators, the differences and similarities between these two roles and the way their work is perceived or not. Translating Myself and Others presents its readers with a panoply of thoughtful and thought-provoking essays. Lahiri’s writing struck me for its clarity and gracefulness and I look forward to revisiting the essays here collected in the future.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sher

    This was not a bad book, that's not why I gave it two stars. I liked it and clearly Jhumpa Lahiri is mega talented. This book is rather academic (read: chock full of information and ideas, but somewhat dry) and would be a great read for university students and professors. But to read it as a simple diversion to daily life, well... not incredibly entertaining but I probably would have found it more compelling if I were a professional translator. Here are my notes... Lahari now teaches creative wri This was not a bad book, that's not why I gave it two stars. I liked it and clearly Jhumpa Lahiri is mega talented. This book is rather academic (read: chock full of information and ideas, but somewhat dry) and would be a great read for university students and professors. But to read it as a simple diversion to daily life, well... not incredibly entertaining but I probably would have found it more compelling if I were a professional translator. Here are my notes... Lahari now teaches creative writing and translation at Princeton. Introduction Jhumpa has translated only one of her own works. The following chapters are a series of essays in chronological order (over a period of 7 years) about how her thinking translation of English to Italian and back from project to project has evolved and changed. “Translation has transformed my relational to writing. It shows me how to work with new words, how to experiment with new styles and forms, how to take great risks, how to structure my sentences in different ways.” Reading already does this, but translation goes under the skin and establishes new rhythms and exposes new solutions in revelatory ways. “To be a writer - translator is to value both being and becoming. What one writes in any given language typically remains as is but translation pushes it to become otherwise thanks to translation. The act of one text becoming another. The conversation I've been seeking to have with literature for much of my life now feels more complete, more harmonious, far richer with possibilities. Before I engage seriously with translation, something in my life as a writer was missing. At this point I can no longer imagine not working on a translation just as I cannot imagine not working on or thinking of working on my own writing. I think of writing and translation as two aspects of the same activity. Two faces of the same coin or maybe two strokes exercising distinct but complementary strengths that allow me to swim greater distances and at greater depths through the mysterious element of language.” Chapter 1 “I am a writer without a true mother tongue - linguistically orphaned.” “In order to conquer any foreign language one needs to open two principal doors. The first is comprehension. The second the spoken language. In between there are smaller doors equally relevant: syntax, grammar, vocabulary, nuances of meaning, pronunciation… at this point one gains relative mastery. In my case I dare to open a third door: the written language. Bit by bit as one studies, the door to comprehension swings open. The spoken language apart from a foreign accent and some mispronunciations here and there also opens with relative ease. The written language is certainly the most formidable door, remains ajar… Writing in another language reactivates the grief of being between two worlds of being on the outside and feeling alone and excluded.” Chapter 5 How to put a short story together: see Ernest Hemingway’s “Cat in the Rain” Afterword On her mother’s death: (inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis) Death is not the end, but the transformation into something else. “She’s not dying as much as becoming something else.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sofia Podgorski

    This book is a must read for anyone who studies multiple languages or has an interest in the meaning of our words. the language in this book was not only beautiful but thought provoking. as someone who is a classics student and understands the difficulty and joy of translating ancient greek and latin, i appreciated how this book brought a voice to the art of translation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    nicole

    love the botanical style

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Wilson

    Just a really smart and insightful collection of writings from a really smart person. Her grasp of language and perspective on translation are both incredibly inspiring for any foreign language learner.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shahd Aldera

    At first, although i’m not Italian, I had the same question. Why Italian? It seems that we as humans are wired to own the language and to take pride in speaking and passing the language to our offspring. We unconsciously think that learning other’s language, let alone to write and publish in that language, has to be for a purpose. I honestly was interested in learning the why and at the same time sadden that she had to justify her fondness of Italian to others. Lahiri excelled in expressing her lo At first, although i’m not Italian, I had the same question. Why Italian? It seems that we as humans are wired to own the language and to take pride in speaking and passing the language to our offspring. We unconsciously think that learning other’s language, let alone to write and publish in that language, has to be for a purpose. I honestly was interested in learning the why and at the same time sadden that she had to justify her fondness of Italian to others. Lahiri excelled in expressing her love and devotion to Italian and seemed enjoying the linguistic metamorphosis that writing and translating in Italian brought to her.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    I really loved her book Whereabouts and thought this would be interesting to read but it was straight up boring I am sorry

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Smith

    I bought this book on a whim. I was looking for something different in the recently released non-fiction books, and I'm fascinated by the subject of translation. Plus, I teach a class periodically on writing and the philosophy of language, so I'm always looking for new texts to introduce to my students. The big issue with the book, in my opinion, is that it doesn't have enough material to fill an entire essay collection. It has a few real gems, including an extended examination of the myth of Ec I bought this book on a whim. I was looking for something different in the recently released non-fiction books, and I'm fascinated by the subject of translation. Plus, I teach a class periodically on writing and the philosophy of language, so I'm always looking for new texts to introduce to my students. The big issue with the book, in my opinion, is that it doesn't have enough material to fill an entire essay collection. It has a few real gems, including an extended examination of the myth of Echo that serves as the centerpiece of the book. She also has some interesting thoughts about her relationship with Italian, the challenges of self-translation, and translation's relationship to death. However, she also included three essays (?!) that were basically just translator commentary -- while I have no question that her introductions to Domenico Starnone's novels were meaningful in their original context, I can't say that I understood the logic of publishing them separately in a collection. The book definitely felt like a bunch of essays published in other places that were just hanging out together. Although some of them were quite good, I'm not sure they worked together as a coherent whole.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kit Wren

    I've been reading a lot of works in translation the last few years, but my rather poor grasp of other languages (spanish is getting better but is very clearly not at a literary clearance yet, i still struggle through the obscene comic books I got in Barcelona when I was ten) mean that it's all pretty opaque. Jhumpa Lahiri and her work translating in Italian, then writing in Italian, then translating herself back into English, makes her the ideal person to try to make this less opaque. Her accoun I've been reading a lot of works in translation the last few years, but my rather poor grasp of other languages (spanish is getting better but is very clearly not at a literary clearance yet, i still struggle through the obscene comic books I got in Barcelona when I was ten) mean that it's all pretty opaque. Jhumpa Lahiri and her work translating in Italian, then writing in Italian, then translating herself back into English, makes her the ideal person to try to make this less opaque. Her accounts show translation as a meticulous, painstaking process, trying to find the exact right word in a police lineup of almost-right words. I already liked what I've read of her results, and these behind the scenes essays enhance that, most especially an essay where she takes several different words for language and trace how they're used in the private letters of Antonio Gramsci, showing how tailored each individual job has to be to get not just Italian into English, but the Italian of Gramsci or Dante or Calvino, to translate the person. This all sounds a little inside baseball for non-writers, and maybe it is, but I don't care. Get your own goodreads profile. go to hell.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy Wike

    Of course a very interesting read for anyone curious about the business of translation, but I also found it centering and helpful in returning to the roots of my own creative passions -- why I pursue the things I do, how I challenge myself, and what makes me me "more attentive, active, curious" (as the Italian language does for the author). Of course a very interesting read for anyone curious about the business of translation, but I also found it centering and helpful in returning to the roots of my own creative passions -- why I pursue the things I do, how I challenge myself, and what makes me me "more attentive, active, curious" (as the Italian language does for the author).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mindy

    This book will be a treasure to anyone who loves languages and the transcendent meanings of words.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Walker

    Good, just more of an academic, linguistic book than a narrative one like the others I've read Good, just more of an academic, linguistic book than a narrative one like the others I've read

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Lakly

    All of this book is well-written. Much of this book is rather technical. The last essay, however, is about translation, Ovid, and the death of Lahiri's mother is a beautiful, deeply human way. All of this book is well-written. Much of this book is rather technical. The last essay, however, is about translation, Ovid, and the death of Lahiri's mother is a beautiful, deeply human way.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kirat Pawar

  16. 4 out of 5

    E

  17. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Wallace

  18. 4 out of 5

    Holly

  19. 4 out of 5

    angela vergara

  20. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emma Shanti

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alma Anvar

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tiff

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nohemi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Armstrong

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Wood

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daphne McWilliams

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily Stensloff

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