This Thursday, 8 March is the International Women’s Day that celebrates women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. What a timely suggestion from fellow Dolce Vita Bloggers to write about a woman who has inspired me.
Nilanjana Sudheshna Lahiri was born on July 11, 1967, in London, England, to mother Tapati and father Amar, a Bengali couple who immigrated to the United Kingdom from Calcutta, India. Lahiri’s father, a university librarian, opted to relocate to the United States for work, eventually settling in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, when she was still a small child.
Why would a woman whose mother tongue is Bengali and second language English, decide to not only learn to speak Italian but write in Italian as well? Maybe because she is a writer who doesn’t belong completely to any language. Maybe it is because she is infatuated with the language and culture of Italy.
Lahiri describes her feeling as, “In a sense, I’m used to a kind of linguistic exile. My mother tongue, Bengali, is foreign in America. When you live in a country where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement. You speak a secret, unknown language, lacking any correspondence to the environment. An absence that creates a distance within you.” How brave one must be to do this. To totally submerge yourself in another language, to subject yourself to a metamorphosis with the hope that you will float to the top, confident in your speaking and writing prowess.
Lahiri’s bravery resulted in the dual language publication, In Altre Parole and winning the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It is in this beautifully executed autobiographical work that you accompany (and identify with) Lahiri on her quest for full Italian immersion and the process of learning to express oneself in another language.
A must read for those who truly desire to speak Italian.