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Jhumpa Lahiri at JLT: American literature massively overrated

January 18, 2014 18:41 IST

Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri believes that American literature is massively overrated and that current reading habits are transformed by the mainstream.

"Our reading habits are transformed by the mainstream and to be frank, I find American literature massively overrated," the 46-year-old author said at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival on Saturday.

Lahiri was in conversation with American author Jonathan Frazen, British writer Jim Crace and Chinese author Xiaolu Guo who has also written books in English during the session "The Global Novel."

"It is shameful that there is lack of translation in the American market. I know I am making a judgment, but I guess that is what it is. Living out of the US gives you a completely different perspective," said the author.

Panelists at Saturday's session were unanimous that the English language served as a common bridge to link different cultures and reach out to more people.

Lahiri's most recent fiction "The Lowland", a tale of two brothers set in Kolkata of the 1960s was nominated for the 2013 Man Booker Prize but did not win it.

The London-born daughter of immigrants from West Bengal who is famed for her novels and short stories about immigrant experiences relocated to Italy two years ago. She said she felt compelled to compare the literary scenario in America and in Italy.

"I was very surprised to find the number of translated books in Italy. Seven of their best books of the year were translations of works from different countries," she said.

The author said she was currently reading in Italian to overcome her superficial knowledge of literature in that language.

"I have lived in America and was exposed to Anglophone literature like many of you. But it was freeing to see such kind of recognition given to other works in other countries," Lahiri said.

Outling the journey of her books, beginning with an initial rough idea to the ultimate draft, Lahiri said she never knew how a book would eventually turn out or what its climax entailed.

"I never have an idea in my mind beforehand. I just expect to be happy and satisfied when I am finished with the book," she said.

Lahiri is the author of three previous books and with her debut collection of stories, "Interpreter of Maladies", bagging her a Pulitzer Prize.


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