Thanks to Claire, over at the fantastic Word by Word site for pointing out this New York Times article I had missed, “My Life’s Sentences” by the American author Jhumpa Lahiri.
I haven’t yet read Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake, which Claire reviews over on Word by Word , but I have read Ms Lahiri’s wonderfully crafted and lyrical short stories in her collections – her first short story collection, The Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 – and in those published in The New Yorker.
Ms Lahiri’s stories are largely about Bengali immigrants living in America, and the rifts that often develop between the first generation immigrants and their American-born children. I love stories like this, with generations straddling two cultures and not seeing eye to eye on so many issues.
As a mother, I’m also raising my children in another culture and I find this to be a fascinating experience. When your children are growing up in another country, they truly become a part of that new culture. They may speak your language well and accept your traditions, but it’s natural that they will feel more affinity with the local culture. Ms Lahiri beautifully captures this tug-of-war that can develop between the generations.
In this article, she discusses her fascination with well-crafted sentences. Ms Lahiri uses as an example her readings in different languages, in her case Italian, to truly focus in on the language and the construction of sentences.
I loved reading this because I have felt this many times, too. I love to read in other languages and I find that I focus in even more on sentence construction and syntax when I read in a language other than my own.
Sometimes I feel that I fully appreciate the beauty of the language more if I’m reading in a different language, whereas I might not notice those elements the first time I read a work in my mother tongue.
So, readers and writers, what do you think? Are you also drawn by well-crafted sentences? Do you notice this even more when reading in other languages? For those of you who enjoy reading cross-cultural fiction, who are your favorite authors? I’d love to hear your views.