Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing, Translation, and Crossing Between Cultures (Ep. 17 — Live at Mason)

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Tyler’s research stack for Jhumpa

On early influences

On Ashapoorna Devi

On architecture and physical settings

Tyler’s debate with Roger Scruton

On the most intimate form of reading

On Elena Ferrante and becoming darker

On Bengal

[Kolkata] believes in its poets, that believes in its politics, believes in humanity in some sense. And life is so extreme there, in so many ways. People are put to the test, and you see life being put to the test constantly around you. There’s nothing you can really accept easily or take for granted about yourself or about the universe if you’ve been there. It’s a jolt to your consciousness, but a fundamental one, an essential one, to shake us out of this, whatever takes over, if you protect yourself.

On lesser-known influences

Those translations and his relationship with English — this is what’s missing in American literature right now, with the exception of poets, American poets who have devoted time and energy to other literatures, to translation. Whether it’s Ezra Pound or other poets, W. S. Merwin, Mark Strand — you have examples of people who translate and make that part of their creative work, but relatively few fiction writers stop to think about it or engage with it.

On book covers and blurbs

I think this is one of the things about writing in Italian that people aren’t prepared for: that I don’t pretend anymore. And I’m not concerned about making everybody happy.

Where do you stand between wanting to express yourself and be free and being afraid of that freedom, being actually vulnerable to that freedom? I think America represents Freedom with a big capital F. And it always has, and we hope it always will for the good. But there’s also the danger of that, even as a young girl in the ’70s, as a kid, a child of immigrants, I knew what it meant to shop in one store versus another store.

On Indian classical music




A podcast in which esteemed economist Tyler Cowen engages with today's most underrated thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between. For new episodes, visit conversationswithtyler.com/episodes.

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