For the American Indian writer Jumpa Lahiri writing in Italian has become a challenge she wants to win.
She learned Italian so well she wrote in this language her new book, “The boundary”.
In an interview on the New Yorker she discusses about it.
“The boundary” is about about a girl raised in a country where her parents are immigrants.
Not a surprise. I you are her reader you know this is her main topic. Her only topic, I would say. Her writing looks like a long psychoanalytic session to rejoin her Indian and American personality. The news is is she wrote the book directly in Italian.
Jumpa Lahiri writing in Italian is actually not a news.
She has already written “In other words“, an essay about her relationship with Italian language. The magazine “Internazionale” published it for the first time as a collection of articles in different issues. Lahiri has studied Italian for years and she describes it as life-long a journey, a pursuit. This journey brought her to live in Rome.
According to this interview, Lahiri’s Italian stay inspired this story, but she never explicitly mentions in the book where exactly the facts happen.
A book on immigration has a perfect timing in Italy right now.
There is great discussion in Italy about immigrants in general (as in all Europe) and especially about the integration of children of immigrants born or growing up in Italy. At the moment a second generation immigrant has the right to request the Italian citizenship at the age of eighteen. A part of Italians is afraid of the impact of the unregulated migrants coming through the Mediterranean from Africa. But there are plenty of children of regular immigrants, living and working here. They go to Italian school, they probably know Italian language, food and culture better than their parents’. We haven’t find a way yet to grant right to these young people.
Reading this book will be interesting to me. Lahiri personal and artistic story makes her probably the best voice to talk about this topic.
Here’ her opinion in the article:
Immigration in Italy is a relatively recent phenomenon, and the debate assumes a specific declination given that the notion of an “Italian” remains, racially, quite exclusive, i.e., unequivocally white. (…)
(…) A huge obstacle is the controversy over “ius soli” (which means “right of the soil”), a law that would allow children born and raised in Italy of foreign-born parents to obtain Italian citizenship. This legislation has still not been passed. And so what I perceive, sadly, is a perplexing resistance to change, clearly manifested in the government’s refusal to grant basic rights to second-generation immigrants.
She also discusses in the interview the raise of populism in Italy, very similar to the mood that brought to the Trump election in U.S.A.
I don’t expect this is a book about Italy, but I think Italians will find it interesting.
Jumpa Lahiri writing in Italian means also having an esteemed American author presenting Italy to the world with her perpective. Knowing the language, considering Italy like home, makes her a voice that we Italians should also listen to look to ourselves from another point of view.
Photo by Carlo Benini via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under attribution.
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