The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and current director of Princeton University’s Program in Creative Writing, Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhode Island, first speaking her parents’ language, Bengali. She learned English as she grew, initially by watching children’s television shows like Sesame Street and the Electric Company.
Feeling foreign in both languages, Lahiri fell in love with Italian during a trip to Florence after college and immersed herself in a third tongue in spite of the struggles of acquiring a new language as an adult.
Translation — that movement between languages, cultures, and ultimately, meaning — has been a fact of Lahiri’s entire life. As a writer, Lahiri said she finds the act of translating to be “extraordinarily powerful and regenerative.” It’s an experience she has shared with her students at Princeton since joining the faculty in 2015.
Lahiri will discuss issues of translation in Aristotle’s “Poetics” as part of the Humanities Council’s 14th annual Humanities Colloquium, “Things As They Should Be? A Question for the Humanities,” which will be held as a webinar from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 9. Her talk is titled “Not should but might: notes of a would-be translator.” Advance registration is required; the event is open to the Princeton University community. More information can be found on the Humanities Council website.
“It’s only by stepping outside the language you take for granted — the language you can express yourself in without thinking — that you can really learn to work in any language.”
— Jhumpa Lahiri