Angelo Monaco

Language Migration across Literature: Jhumpa Lahiri's Italian Self-Quest

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Keywords: Jhumpa Lahiri; Self-Begetting Fiction; Language Migration; Translingualism.

Jhumpa Lahiri is one of the most prominent contemporary authors of Indian origin writing in English. Her short stories and novels raise many important issues, such as the quest for self, the investigation of diasporic identities, the exploration of the everyday tensions and cultural conflicts of Bengali expatriates to the United States. Writing in the interstices of borders between languages, because of her multifaceted Bengali-American background, Lahiri's recent linguistic migration to the Italian language brings to the fore the link between language and self through literature. This article surveys the main manifestations of writing as self-quest in Lahiri's Italian production. To do so, it addresses the category of "selfbegetting fiction" (Kellman 1976; 1980) as instrumental in foregrounding a shift towards a more abstract and yet autobiographic style. On the one hand, I argue that Lahiri's Italian writing assumes the shape of a "fragile shelter", despite her exposure to linguistic limitations. On the other, I argue that these limitations are still envisaged as a reparative strategy, evocative of Ricoeur's narrative identity. In Lahiri's hands, the fiction of self-begetting becomes one of self-definition and rebirth, a Heideggerian invitation to 'dwelling in language' which eventually prevails over the aesthetics of dislocation.

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