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From Rome with Love: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Roman Stories Unveiled

Jhumpa Lahiri is back, and this time she’s taking you to Rome to savor some delicious Roman Stories. Lahiri beautifully captures the dynamics of various gatherings, bringing together people from different backgrounds and countries. Immerse yourself in the allure of these Roman Stories – grab your copy now!

 

 

Roman Stories
Roman Stories || Jhumpa Lahiri

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I should note straightaway that P’s parties took place every year at her house, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, during the mild winters we typically enjoy in this city. Unlike the slog of other winter holidays spent with family, always arduous, P’s birthday, at the beginning of the new year, was an unpredictable gathering, languorous and light. I looked forward to the commotion of the crowded house, the pots of water on the verge of boiling, the smartly dressed wives always ready to lend a hand in the kitchen. I waited for the first few glasses of prosecco before lunch to go to my head, sampled the various appetizers. Then I liked to join the other adults out on the patio for a little fresh air, to smoke a cigarette and comment on the soccer game the kids played without interruption in the yard.
The atmosphere at P’s party was warm but impersonal, owing to the number of people invited, who knew one another either too well or not at all. You’d encounter two distinct groups, like two opposing currents that crisscross in the ocean, forming a perfectly symmetrical shape, only to cancel each other out a moment later. On one side there were those like me and my wife, old friends of P and her husband who came every year, and on the other our counterparts: foreigners who’d show up for a few years, or sometimes just once.

 

They came from different countries, for work or for love, for a change of scenery, or for some other mysterious reason. They were a nomadic population that piqued my interest— prototypes, perhaps, for one of my future stories, the kind of people I’d have the chance to meet and casually observe only at P’s house. In no time at all they’d manage to visit nearly all parts of our country, tackling the smaller towns on the weekends, skiing our mountains in February, and swimming in our crystalline seas in July. They’d pick up a decent smattering of our language, adapt to the food, forgive the daily chaos. Overnight they’d become minor experts in the historical events
we’d memorized as kids and had all but forgotten—which emperor succeeded which, what they accomplished. They had a strategic relationship with this city without ever fully being a part of it, knowing that sooner or later their trip would end and one day they’d be gone.

 

They were so different from the group I belonged to: those of us born and raised in Rome, who bemoaned the city’s alarming decline but could never leave it behind. The type of people for whom just moving to a new neighborhood in their thirties—going to a new pharmacy, buying the newspaper from a different newsstand, finding a table at a different coffee bar—was the equivalent of departure, displacement, complete rupture.

 

P was an old friend of my wife’s. They’d known each other for many years, before we started dating, having grown up on the same block lined with grand palazzi. As kids they played together until dark; they went to the same elementary school and then the same challenging high school; they wandered off to buy contraband cigarettes from a shady guy behind a piazza that was quiet in those days. They went to the same university and, after graduating, rented a fifth-floor apartment in the thick of the city center. In the summers they traveled together to other countries—experiences they still loved to talk about. Then matters of the heart intervened: my wife met me at a New Year’s Eve party, while P married a staid but friendly lawyer, a man of average height, good looking but slightly cross-eyed, and became a mother of four—three boys in quick succession, and then, like a simple but welcome dessert after a three-course meal, a girl.

 

Not long before the girl was born, P had a brush with death. A renowned doctor, always among those invited to the party, ended up saving her life with a tricky surgery. From then on, this yearly gathering became a constant: this sunny afternoon around her birthday, this merry, lavish lunch that brought together a wide range of people. P liked to fill the house and churn her friends together—relatives, neighbors, parents of her children’s classmates. She liked to throw open the door at least fifty times, offering something to eat, playing host, exchanging a few words with everyone.

 

It was thanks to my wife, then, that I went to that house once a year, a somewhat secluded house on the city’s outskirts. To get there, you took a curved, picturesque road, lined with cypresses and tumbling ivy. A road that swept you away, an urban road that ferried you toward the sea and put the frenzied city far behind. At a certain point there was a sharp right turn; you had to keep an eye out, it was easy to miss. After that it became a sort of residential labyrinth, with narrow, shaded, unpaved streets. You couldn’t see the houses, just tall gates and the house numbers etched in stone.

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Get your copy of Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri wherever books are sold.

Whereabouts: Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest literary landscape

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. The woman at the center wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home, an engaging backdrop to her days, acts as a confidant: the sidewalks around her house, parks, bridges, piazzas, streets, stores, coffee bars. We follow her to the pool she frequents and to the train station that sometimes leads her to her mother, mired in a desperate solitude after her father’s untimely death. In addition to colleagues at work, where she never quite feels at ease, she has girl friends, guy friends, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. But in the arc of a year, as one season gives way to the next, transformation awaits. One day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will change. This is the first novel she has written in Italian and translated into English. It brims with the impulse to cross barriers. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

 

Here is an excerpt from the book Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri:

 

The city doesn’t beckon or lend me a shoulder today. Maybe it knows I’m about to leave. The sun’s dull disk defeats me; the dense sky is the same one that will carry me away. That vast and vaporous territory, lacking precise pathways, is all that binds us together now. But it never preserves our tracks. The sky, unlike the sea, never holds on to the people that pass through it. The sky contains nothing of our spirit, it doesn’t care. Always shifting, altering its aspect from one moment to the next, it can’t be defined.

 

Whereabouts| Jhumpa Lahiri

 

This morning I’m scared. I’m afraid to leave this house, this neighborhood, this urban cocoon. But I’ve already got one foot out the door. The suitcases, purchased at my former stationery store, are already packed. I just need to lock them now. I’ve given the key to my subletter and I’ve told her how often she needs to water the plants, and how the handle of the door to the balcony sometimes sticks. I’ve emptied out one closet and locked another, inside of which I’ve amassed everything I consider important. It’s not much in the end: notebooks, letters, some photos and papers, my diligent agendas. As for the rest, I don’t really care, though it does occur to me that for the first time someone else will be using my cups, dishes, forks, and napkins on a daily basis.

 

Last night at dinner, at a friend’s house, everyone wished me well, telling me to have a wonderful time. They hugged me and said, Good luck! He wasn’t there, he had other plans. I had a nice time anyway, we lingered at the table, still talking after midnight.

 

I tell myself: A new sky awaits me, even though it’s the same as this one. In some ways it will be quite grand. For an entire year, for example, I won’t have to shop for food, or cook, or do the dishes. I’ll never have to eat dinner by myself.

 

I might have said no, I might have just stayed put. But something’s telling me to push past the barrier of my life, just like the dog that pulled me along the paths of the villa. And so I heed my call, having come to know the guts and soul of this place a little too well. It’s just that today, feeling slothful, I’m prey to those embedded fears that don’t dissipate.

5 Quotes by Jhumpa Lahiri on Books and Their Covers

We often hear, “do not judge a book by its cover.” Perhaps not in judging the book entirely, but the cover does form an important visual relationship to the book
Jhumpa Lahiri explores this relationship of text and image in her latest book, The Clothing of Books.
Here are some intriguing quotes by Jhumpa Lahiri on the covers of books:
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Probing the complex relationships between text and image, author and designer, and art and commerce, Jhumpa Lahiri explains what book covers and designs have come to mean to her in The Clothing of Books.
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Four things Random House India brings for you at JLF 2014

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Imagine the crowd roaring as the world’s eminent authors are ushered in. Imagine the hurried hush that would overtake the audience as their favourite authors step on the stage. This is what Jaipur Literature Festival is all about.
We are attending this literature festival with much enthusiasm. Here are four things we will be bringing to you from the Jaipur Literature Festival:
1.     Meet Jhumpa Lahiri – Yes, she is coming to JLF for the very first time and we are extremely excited to hear her speak. After wooing us with her words in ‘The Lowland’ last year, she’s here to give an amazing start to 2014!

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Image Source: classracegender.files.wordpress.com

2.     Live tweets – We’re all geared up to tweet live from various sessions to keep the twitterati updated with the ongoings at JLF. So, even if you’re unable to join us at JLF, you can still catch the action live on Twitter at #randomJLF

#Randomjlf3.     Daily round-up blogs: Not just tweets, we’re also summarising the sessions as blog posts for our readers. So please, don’t sleep without reading our write-ups as we’d be sharing them every evening.

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Image Source: communities.bmc.com

4.     Photos– We will bring you pictures of your favourite authors from the event! You won’t have to google their pictures anymore. We would click numerous photographs of the present literati and share them with you on our Facebook page and twitter.
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Image Sources: vanoorschot.nl, livemint.com, jaipurliteraturefestival.org, respectively
Attending the Jaipur Literature Festival is not only every reader’s dream come true, but it is also the most appropriate way for a book lover to start this New Year!
If you’re an avid reader, you’d simply love the aura that surrounds Jaipur for these 5 days and if you’re an aspiring writer, JLF may even inspire you to write your very first book. Last year, Nadeem Aslam became a source of inspiration for many aspiring authors when he narrated his story of getting published. Read here: http://penguinindiablog.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/the-blind-mans-garden-nadeem-aslam/

Nadeem Aslam

This year, you might just have your eureka moment at the JLF too. So book your tickets and go Random at Jaipur Literature Festival 2014!

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