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Glad to see so much translation in Italy: Jhumpa Lahiri

Posted on Jan 18 2014 | IANS

By Shilpa Raina, Jaipur, Jan 18 : Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri said Saturday she was pleasantly surprised at the number of translated works in Italy, where she has now relocated, against the US, where she once lived.

"I moved to Italy two years ago and I was surprised to see when they came out with the 10 best books of the year, seven of them were translations of works from different countries. I have lived in America and was exposed to Anglophone literature like many of you. But it was freeing to see such kind of recognition given to other works in other countries," the 46-year-old told a packed audience Saturday during a session on "The Global Novel" at the Jaipur Literary Festival.

"It is shameful that there is lack of translation in the American market. I know I am making a judgment, but I guess that is what it is. Living out of the US gives you a completely different perspective," she said, adding that she was now reading Italian to overcome her superficial knowledge of literature in that language.

The author of "The Lowland" was joined on stage by American author Jonathan Frazen, British writer Jim Crace and Chinese author Xiaolu Guo, who also writes in English.

Xiaolu was born in a village in south China and moved to London in 2002. She too, like Lahiri, dismissed American literature and called it "massively overrated".

"Our reading habits are transformed by mainstream and to be frank, I find American literature massively overrated," she said, as the audience laughed.

All of the speakers agreed, however, that as link language, English allowed the reader to be exposed to different cultures.

"English is a tricky passport to reach out to more people," said Guo, whose books have been translated into English.

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