The words in the title refer specially to Lahiri’s love, almost an obsession, of Italian. For twenty years she studied Italian. In order to immerse herself in the language, her family moved to Rome. Eventually, this immersion resulted in this book, presented in a dual language format.
At times, “In Other Words” is a fascinating study of how Lahiri progressed in her study of Italian. Her attempts to be able to fully express herself in this language, to be able to write and think in Italian, are intensely expressed. However, sometimes she is so consumed with the intricacies of the language, she belabors, for example, her lack of understanding of the difference between the imperfect and the simple past tense. These are the sections of the book that the reader will probably skim.
Lahiri is a gifted writer. Her voyage of discovery to truly learn Italian is fascinating. It is interesting that Lahiri, who is English speaking by birth, chose not to translate her book, written in Italian, into English. She felt that translating her book would break the strict discipline that she had imposed upon herself. “Translating the book myself would have broken that discipline; it would have meant reengaging intimately with English, wrestling with it, rather than with Italian.”