Writer Jhumpa Lahiri: Chronicle of a life that never existed

“Directionless, lost, confused, confused, disoriented, confused, disturbed, uprooted, useless, frightened. I find myself in these related terms, this is where I live, it consists of the words that mean the world to me. ”

In “Where I Find Me”, Jhumpa Lahiri tells of a woman who is more wrong than going through her life. “The loneliness has become my profession,” says the nameless narrator, a woman in her mid-forties and living in Italy at one point, “it is a discipline of its own: I try to perfect myself in it, and yet I suffer underneath. ”

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You don’t know why the woman lives the way she lives. Perhaps because the last love ended in disaster (the man led a double life) and the next possible should not be one (it is the man of the best friend). Perhaps it has more to do with her, not resignation, but a calm certainty about her own expectations.

The woman knew early on that the woman would not be able to reassure her parents with a normal life: “I didn’t like myself, I already knew then that I would stay alone.”

And this is how she lives her life, in which not too much happens externally: she has a job at the university, no family other than the old mother and an unreliable lover. The woman fills her days with walks through the city and her routines, the visit to the trattoria, the manicure every two weeks on Sunday.

An innocent, fleeting affection

“Where I find myself” is also a female story of a flane and the story of an escape. Lahiri takes her protagonist to places – each of the chapters is titled with a location – from which she moves.

A beach that she finds because she sneaks away from the party; a train station bar, which she leaves hectically because her train suddenly arrives; a lingerie shop where she was standing with her friend’s husband and whom she sometimes meets by chance on the street: “We enjoy an innocent, fleeting affection. It won’t get bigger or even get out of hand. ”

Doesn’t that all sound a bit like intellectual self-mirroring prose? Lahiri is always about: what could have been, what may come – a state of being in the permanent conjunctive.

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Maybe it’s because of the protagonist’s middle age, maybe because she doesn’t have what many peers have: children, man, tastefully furnished country house with a fireplace. Nevertheless, the short, clear sequences that make the book a kind of short story novel and mood of a woman in the intervening years between not-really-young and also-not-really-old are not a female midlife crisis Report.

“I was never married myself,” says the woman, “but I was, like many women, with a number of husbands.” This laconic, ironic tone, which does not contradict facts but confronts them with laconia and irony the whole book, there are no disappointed complaints about your own life. Instead, the narrator watches everything around her and thinks about what she perceives.

The narrator is never separated from her surroundings; she watches closely and thinks about everything she perceives. This makes it so rich inside.

She lives in Rome, writes in Italian

Jhumpa Lahiri, born in London in 1967 to Indian parents and raised in America, is considered the secret master among American short story writers. In 2000, she won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Interpreter of Maladies” (German: “Melancholy of Arrival”). In Germany, Lahiri is best known for “In the Lowland” (“The Lowland”) and as an author of short stories for the “New Yorker”.

Lahiri has been living in Rome for several years, and has been writing in Italian for some time. This change of language alone is impressive, and if you take a closer look at the prose, the representation of a woman’s search, her inner turmoil while at the same time being calm to the outside, her attempts to break out of invisible narrows and actually be on her own, appear very similar to those in the Searching women described early works by Elena Ferrante.

Stylistically, however, Lahiri is more minimalistic, more chilled. Emotions are only briefly faded in before they withdraw into the interior of the figure.

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Jhumpa Lahiri works a lot with the looks of women who seem to penetrate everything; observation is their mode of action. “Where I find myself” is reminiscent of Antonioni films, the scenes by the sea could also show Monica Vitti with her cool, rapt look into the distance.

In this respect, one could call the book, based on Michelangelo Antonioni’s stories with the title “Chronicle of a love that never existed” also “Chronicle of a life that never existed”; In addition to everyday life, Lahiri also tells of life that never actually existed, or if it did, then only in thoughts – which, however, is captured and, yes, lived in this way.

Jhumpa Lahiri: Where I find myself. From Italian by Margit Knapp. Rowohlt, 160 pages, € 20.

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