Roman Stories (Author, Jhumpa Lahiri) Todd Portnowitz (Translator)

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Summary: 

The first short story collection by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and master of the form since her number one New York Times best seller Unaccustomed Earth • Rome—metropolis and monument, suspended between past and future, multi-faceted and metaphysical—is the protagonist, not the setting, of these nine stories

In “The Boundary,” one family vacations in the Roman countryside, though we see their lives through the eyes of the caretaker’s daughter, who nurses a wound from her family’s immigrant past. In “P’s Parties,” a Roman couple, now empty nesters, finds comfort and community with foreigners at their friend’s yearly birthday gathering—until the husband crosses a line.

And in “The Steps,” on a public staircase that connects two neighborhoods and the residents who climb up and down it, we see Italy’s capital in all of its social and cultural variegations, filled with the tensions of a changing city: visibility and invisibility, random acts of aggression, the challenge of straddling worlds and cultures, and the meaning of home.

These are splendid, searching stories, written in Jhumpa Lahiri’s adopted language of Italian and seamlessly translated by the author and by Knopf editor Todd Portnowitz. Stories steeped in the moods of Italian master Alberto Moravia and guided, in the concluding tale, by the ineluctable ghost of Dante Alighieri, whose words lead the protagonist toward a new way of life

Review

“A delectable, sun-washed treat . . . the stories have the beating heart of the city itself, a place of magnificent decay and vibrant, varied life.” Vogue

“A dazzling collection of nine stories originally written in Italian and featuring characters who grapple with vast emotional and social chasms that cleave the lives of families, longtime friends, and immigrants . . . Throughout, Lahiri’s luminous prose captures a side of Rome often ignored . . . These unembroidered yet potent stories shine.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A brilliant return to the short story form by an author of protean accomplishments . . . Filled with intelligence and sorrow, these sharply drawn glimpses of Roman lives create an impressively unified effect.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stunning . . . A finely calibrated collection about insiders and outsiders, natives and foreigners . . . Rome with its echoing past and mercurial present is a potently evocative setting for Lahiri’s exquisitely incisive, richly empathetic, and profoundly resonant stories.”Booklist (starred review)

About the Author

JHUMPA LAHIRI, a bilingual writer and translator, is the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Barnard College (Columbia University). She received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, her debut story collection. She is also the author of The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland, which was a finalist for both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award in fiction. Since 2015, Lahiri has been writing fiction, essays, and poetry in Italian: In Altre Parole (In Other Words), Il Vestito dei libri (The Clothing of Books), Dove mi trovo (self-translated as Whereabouts), Il quaderno di Nerina, and Racconti romani. She has translated three novels by Domenico Starnone and is the editor of The Penguin Classics Book of Italian Short Stories, which was published in Italy as Racconti Italiani. Lahiri received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2014, and in 2019 she was named Commendatore of the Italian Republic by President Sergio Mattarella. Her most recent book in English is a collection of essays entitled Translating Myself and Others, published in Spring 2022 by Princeton University Press.

 

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