The Millions

Found in Translation: On Jhumpa Lahiri and ‘Whereabouts’

In 2012, after a run of successful story collections and novels, including 1999’s Pulitzer-winning Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri embarked on a daring experiment. Having studied Italian off and on since graduate school, she decided to move with her husband and children to Rome, where she would immerse herself in the language and, eventually, write a book in it.

Many people in Lahiri’s life, understandably, advised against this plan. By jettisoning English, she was effectively laying down the tool of her trade, exchanging it for one that would be far more cumbersome. It was as if a tennis star had opted to compete with a ping-pong paddle.

At first, the going was indeed tough. As Lahiri recalled in her 2016 memoir, (written in Italian and translated

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