Top 128 Jhumpa Lahiri Quotes

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“Language, identity, place, home: these are all of a piece – just different elements of belonging and not-belonging.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think that what I have been truly searching for as a person, as a writer, as a thinker, as a daughter, is freedom. That is my mission. A sense of liberty, the liberty that comes not only from self-awareness but also from letting go of many things. Many things that weigh us down.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“You can’t have a hit every time. The main thing is to keep on working and not be afraid to take risks. It’s better to do something that’s not perfect and successful every time. It’s important to be fearless and move forward, to learn from what went wrong.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think if you speak to any creative person, there’s something so powerful – so intoxicating, if you will – about discovering another voice, another instrument, another way of looking at things, another way of perceiving things.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It didn’t matter that I wore clothes from Sears; I was still different. I looked different. My name was different. I wanted to pull away from the things that marked my parents as being different.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“A lot of my upbringing was about denying or fretting or evading.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“A lot of my personality was informed by feeling very different in the world I grew up in, feeling that I didn’t fully belong, that my parents didn’t belong.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’ve always had this feeling wherever I go. Of not feeling fully part of things, not fully accepted, not fully inside of something.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The essential dilemma of my life is between my deep desire to belong and my suspicion of belonging.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I don’t know Bengali perfectly. I don’t know how to write it or even read it. I have an accent, I speak without authority, and so I’ve always perceived a disjunction between it and me. As a result, I consider my mother tongue, paradoxically, a foreign language.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Many of my characters struggle with loneliness, that is fair to say.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My responsibility isn’t to paint a flattering portrait; my responsibility is to paint a real portrait, a true portrait.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think it’s the small things, the smaller episodes and details that I linger on and try to draw meaning from, just personally.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I have two young children, and I will say that motherhood is its own peak, just like in the process of writing: one climbs and is continuously moving with each book. Becoming a mother is the greatest connection I’ve ever felt to being spiritual.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I speak English. I grew up speaking Bengali. This is the normal, the known, the obvious composition of who I am. Then there’s Italian, this strange, other component of me that I’ve just created. It was a creative process just to learn the language, never mind to start expressing myself in it.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“He told me he was working as an interpreter in a doctor’s office in Brookline, Massachusetts, where I was living at the time, and he was translating for a doctor who had a number of Russian patients. On my way home, after running into him, I just heard this phrase in my head.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Many of the novelists I admire never left their hometown. Look at Flannery O’Connor. So many of the great Russians never left Russia. Shakespeare never left England. The list goes on.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Relationships do not preclude issues of morality.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Almost any American can connect on some level to a family background of having come across some ocean. They say, ‘My great-grandparents came from wherever… this is why we have this last name, why we do this thing at Christmas.’ All the details get watered down but don’t quite disappear.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I have very little choice. If I don’t write, I feel dreadful. So I write.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“All American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I love stories. But I don’t distinguish so much between a short story and a novel. Personally, when I sit down to read a novel or a Chekhov story, I’m seeking the same thing: I’m seeking that same rich portrayal of life in words.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“One week after moving to Rome, I started writing in my diary in Italian.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away, trusting them to do their work. I am left looking over my shoulder, wondering if I might have structured one more effectively.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“In graduate school, I decide to write my doctoral thesis on how Italian architecture influenced English playwrights of the seventeenth century. I wonder why certain playwrights decided to set their tragedies, written in English, in Italian palaces.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Writing has certain advantages; film is another way to tell a story. An experienced filmmaker will take what she needs from the book and leave out other things. With adaptations, you never get the texture of the writing: it’s a different mode.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“This story is based on a gentleman who indeed did… used to come to my parents’ house in 1971 from Bangladesh. He was at the University of Rhode Island. And I was four, four years old, at the time, and so I actually don’t have any memories of this gentleman.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It took me a long time to even dare to envision myself as a writer. I was very uncertain and hesitant and afraid to pursue a creative life.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Interpreter of Maladies is the title of one of the stories in the book. And the phrase itself was something I thought of before I even wrote that story.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“For that story, I took as my subject a young woman whom I got to know over the course of a couple of visits. I never saw her having any health problems – but I knew she wanted to be married.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It’s easy to set a story anywhere if you get a good guidebook and get some basic street names, and some descriptions, but, for me, yes, I am indebted to my travels to India for several of the stories.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“When I sit down to write, I don’t think about writing about an idea or a given message. I just try to write a story which is hard enough.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The reactions haven’t differed; the concerns have been different. When I read for a predominantly Indian audience, there are more questions that are based on issues of identity and representation.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Some Indians will come up and say that a story reminded them of something very specific to their experience. Which may or may not be the case for non-Indians.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’ve never had Internet access. Actually, I have looked at things on other people’s computers as a bystander. A few times in my life I’ve opened email accounts, twice actually, but it’s something I don’t want in my life right now.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’ve seen novels that have grown out of one story in a collection. But it hasn’t occurred to me to take any of those stories and build on them. They seem very finished for me, so I don’t feel like going back and dredging them up.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I would not send a first story anywhere. I would give myself time to write a number of stories.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’ve inherited a sense of that loss from my parents because it was so palpable all the time while I was growing up, the sense of what my parents had sacrificed in moving to the United States, and yet at the same time, building a life here and all that that entailed.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“At 6:30, which was when the national news began, my father raised the volume and adjusted the antennas. Usually I occupied myself with a book, but that night my father insisted that I pay attention.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“For years, I sort of would try to write a story that somehow fit the title. And I don’t think it happened for maybe another four years that I actually thought of a story, the plot of a story that corresponded to that phrase.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I can’t tell you exactly how I found it. It was just a process of writing a lot of stories and reading a lot of stories that I admired and just working and working until the sentences sounded right and I was satisfied with them.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“On the screen I saw tanks rolling through dusty streets, and fallen buildings, and forests of unfamiliar trees into which East Pakistani refugees had fled, seeking safety over the Indian border.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Winning the Pulitzer is wonderful and it’s an honor and I feel so humbled and so grateful, but I think that I’ll think of it very much as the final sort of final moment for this book and put it behind me along with the rest of the book, as I write more books.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“You know, since the reviews have come out and people have reacted to it, I’ve realized that is in a sense what has happened. But as I was writing them, I didn’t feel a part of any tradition. I think that would have been too overwhelming, in a sense.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I always think first about the nature of the story. When I had the idea for ‘The Namesake,’ I felt that it had to be a novel – it couldn’t work as a story.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It interests me to imagine characters shifting from one situation and one location to another for whatever the circumstances may be.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I don’t know why, but the older I get the more interested I get in my parents’ marriage. And it’s interesting to be married yourself, too, because there is an inevitable comparison.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My parents had an arranged marriage, as did so many other people when I was growing up. My father came and had a life in the United States one way and my mother had a different one, and I was very aware of those things. I continue to wonder about it, and I will continue to write about it.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“In New York I was always so scared of saying that I wrote fiction. It just seemed like, ‘Who am I to dare to do that thing here? The epicenter of publishing and writers?’ I found all that very intimidating and avoided writing as a response.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I approach writing stories as a recorder. I think of my role as some kind of reporting device – recording and projecting.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“If I stop to think about fans, or best-selling, or not best-selling, or good reviews, or not-good reviews, it just becomes too much. It’s like staring at the mirror all day.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The most compelling narrative, expressed in sentences with which I have no chemical reaction, or an adverse one, leaves me cold.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“In fiction, plenty do the job of conveying information, rousing suspense, painting characters, enabling them to speak. But only certain sentences breathe and shift about, like live matter in soil.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another is the most basic, ongoing impulse of my life.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Writing is so humbling; there’s no confidence involved.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think each time you start a story or novel or whatever, you are absolutely at the bottom of the ladder all over again. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think the fundamental thing about writing fiction is that you write what interests you and what inspires you. It can’t be forced. I see no need to write about anything else or any other type of world.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“There’s more than enough in the world I am currently writing about to last for several lifetimes of writing.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My reasons for coming to get married in Calcutta are complicated, and it’s very hard to put it into a sentence. People ask me why. To me, it just felt like a very natural and exciting decision.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I feel partly American, but I have an ambiguous relation with both America and India, the only two countries I really know. I never feel fully one way or the other.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I feel very grateful for the way I was brought up. I did not realise it then, but as I grew older and started writing and realised the material that was there was very strong, I felt very grateful that my life was complicated and that my identity was never clear but put me in a position that was always questioned.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I had been learning Italian for years. I always loved Latin, but Italian is a living language; I’m writing in it now as well as reading it. It is so interesting delving further into language.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The Italians always know that I’m not Italian.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“American? Indian? I don’t know what these words mean. In Italy, it is all about blood, family, where you come from. I’m asked where I am from. I’m from nowhere; I always was, but now I am happy knowing it.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I love Rome. I’m very happy there. I wasn’t in New York.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It’s hard to think of myself as an American, and yet I am not from India, a place where I was not born and where I have never lived.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“As a child, I felt that the Indian part of me was unacknowledged, and therefore somehow negated, by my American environment and vice versa. Growing up, I was impatient with my parents for being so different, holding on to India the way they did, and always making me feel like I had to make a choice of which way I would go.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I find it really liberating to be in a place where I am a foreigner in every way. I’ve lived with this all my life – this divide, this bifurcation. And in Italy, I don’t feel it. There’s none of that tension, only the expectation I place on myself to speak the language well. I find it relaxing. Something drops away, and I observe.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“When I write in Italian – this is just the metaphor that came to me immediately, and I really think this is what it is – I feel like I’m writing with my left hand. Because of that weakness, there is this enormous freedom that comes with it.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I feel as though I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t really want to set a book in any real place ever again.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Part of my whole project from the beginning was to make an absent world present for my parents, which was India.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Identity has been such an explosive territory for me… so hard, so painful at times.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My parents’ relationship with Kolkata is so strong. Growing up, the absence of Kolkata was always present in our lives.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Language and identity are so fundamentally intertwined. You peel back all the layers in terms of what we wear and what we eat and all the things that mark us, and in the end, what we have are our words.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I wish more Italian literature were translated and read in English. I’ve discovered so many extraordinary and diverse writers: Lalla Romano, Carlo Cassola. Beppe Fenoglio, Giorgio Manganelli, just to name a few.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“The highlight of my undergraduate years was a year-long Shakespeare course I took with Edward Tayler.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Immersing myself in Shakespeare’s plays, reading them closely under the guidance of a brilliant, plain-spoken professor changed my life: It opened up the great questions; it put my petty problems into perspective. It got me out of bed in the mornings and kept me in the library late into the night.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I never want to deal with a book once I’m finished writing.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“When I write a book, characters come to life for me somewhere at the back of my head. I strive to make them flesh and blood in an abstract way, in words.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“When you live in a country where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement. You speak a secret, unknown language, lacking any correspondence to the environment. An absence that creates a distance within you.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Why do I write? To investigate the mystery of existence. To tolerate myself. To get closer to everything that is outside of me.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I write to feel alone.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I realize that the wish to write in a new language derives from a kind of desperation.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I feel my writing comes from a desire to… well, it’s motivated by many things, but it’s inherently a contradiction in that I’m writing for myself, and it’s a very interior journey. On the other hand, I feel that writers do make that interior journey out of a desire to connect.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I feel that Italy’s a country that’s constantly looking out and constantly following what’s happening in other cultural centers. What is being written in America, what is being published in England, what is being published in France. It’s a culture that’s always wanting to absorb and inform itself of other works, other writers, etc., etc.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I tend to read mostly 20th-century fiction, 20th-, 21st-century fiction in Italian.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“So much of my writing derives from these questions that I ask myself – things that are utterly beyond my personal set of experiences – and it’s my attempt to try to… understand, to sort of break out of my own consciousness, you know, the limitations of my own life.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I don’t tackle major global events. I don’t like to read about something – an event, a cataclysm – in fiction for the sake of reading it.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’m the least-experimental writer. The idea of trying things just for the sake of pushing the envelope, that’s never really interested me.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I recently discovered the work of Giorgio Manganelli, who wrote a collection called ‘Centuria,’ which contains 100 stories, each of them about a page long. They’re somewhat surreal and extremely dense, at once fierce and purifying, the equivalent of a shot of grappa. I find it helpful to read one before sitting down to write.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“If certain books are to be termed ‘immigrant fiction,’ what do we call the rest? Native fiction? Puritan fiction? This distinction doesn’t agree with me.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“With ‘Interpreter,’ I didn’t know it was ever going to be a book, that they were going to be published. I was writing them in a vacuum for the most part. They were my apprentice work. Then the stories happened to become a book.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’m always intrigued by authors who say, ‘This book took 17 drafts.’ They’re very clear about it. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times… So many of these stories I worked on for a very long time and wrote them, set them aside, rewrote them, worked on something else – they were never far from reach; they informed each other.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Books seem so much more – much more sacred to me, and more important and essential, than they were when I was young.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’ve always been searching to arrive at a certain voice that will probably elude me forever.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’m bound to fail when I write in Italian, but unlike my sense of failure in the past, this doesn’t torment or grieve me.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think, like any artist or any writer, I just want to have that pure freedom of expression and of thought – the freedom to explore and move in unexpected ways.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’m from Kingston, R.I., sort of on the University of Rhode Island campus – on the margins of that, actually.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“If you look at my characters as a group, they all have a different relationship with the way that places can signify emotion in them – and the way those bonds can be shattered.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It was important to me to become day-to-day fluent and functional in another language, and about 10 years ago, I went to Rome for the first time and felt an instant gut connection and wanted to get to know the city.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My father had always dreamed of getting a Ph.D., but certain life circumstances prevented him from following through. It was a tremendous, deep regret. The day I got my Ph.D., I saw in my father’s face what it meant that I had done this.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I started writing after college, slowly, secretly writing.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“On the technical side, I hope that my writing is evolving and maturing, ripening, deepening.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Sometimes, so much of the difficulty is the question of ‘What am I going to write about?’ because the world is so vast.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think about the structure, sure. I think about what’s going to happen, and how it’s going to happen, and the pace. But I think if I stop to think about it in an abstract sense, I feel very daunted. I just try to enter into the story and feel my way through it. It’s a very murky, intuitive way of going about it.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I love reading poetry, and yet, at this point, the thought of writing a poem, to me, is tantamount to figuring out a trigonometry question.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I have my husband and children near me in Rome, and I feel this is where we are temporarily belonging. But personally, all my life, I have felt the absence of a sense of history.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I was always aware of what the language I was using meant in terms of my bond with my parents – how it defined the lines of affection between us. When I spoke English, I felt I wasn’t completely their child any more but the child of another language.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. They were not necessarily the same sentences the professors pointed out, which would turn up for further explication on an exam. I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“When I am experiencing a complex story or novel, the broader planes, and also details, tend to fall away.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“If you grow up in a place, and you’re small, even if the place is itself also small, it’s huge to you. It’s what’s out there: it’s the world outside of your door.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My father encouraged me to work in the library, just because it was the world that he knew. But I also wanted to do it. I also wanted to work in the library and be part of the library somehow, because it represented a world that really wasn’t represented in my home, and I wanted it to be.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I always wanted to grow up in a house full of books, English books, and I wanted the sort of fireplaces that worked, overstuffed chairs, that whole kind of fantasy of a bookish New England life. So the library gave me that; for the hours that I was there, I was surrounded by that atmosphere that I craved in my life.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think one of the things that attracted me about theater and the stage was the ability to escape reality. And that is what I do in my work as a writer, but in a different way. And the freedom to put your own existence on ice and become another person.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I think there are a lot of misconceptions on both sides, the developing vs. the developed world, especially about America. I’ve felt the frustration in my lack of belonging to any one place, but I’ve also felt it liberating to be able to appreciate something without feeling disloyal to my own culture.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Literature is such a profound and deep way to look into someone else’s life, his mind, his hopes and thoughts. Books have opened so many doors for me, taking me to places where my normal life and its finite limits could never have.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I’ve gained a lot from James Joyce, Tolstoy, Chekhov and R. K. Narayan. While writing, I try to see if the story is going to radiate spokes. Their literature has always done that and gifted me beautiful things.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“Oddly, I feel more protected when I write in Italian, even though I’m also more exposed.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“My parents came from Calcutta. They arrived in Cambridge, much like the parents in my novel. And I found myself sort of caught between the world of my parents and the world they had left behind and still clung to, and also the world that surrounded me at school and everywhere else, as soon as I set foot out the door.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“In Italy, where I live now, I have put some distance between myself and the world that has formed me.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I have two passports because I have to have at least one, and I really don’t know how I define myself. And I feel that as I get older, I feel very fortunate to have, on paper, a dual nationality.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“It was very hard for me, for most of my life, to feel American, or call myself American, and that is a very complicated topic that would require a very long conversation.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I try to represent specific experiences of specific characters, and that’s all I want to try to do. I don’t ever try to think about representing a culture, because its impossible, and someone will fault you. And it just doesn’t interest me.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“I write about characters that interest me. And I don’t think of my books as being forms of entertainment.”

― Jhumpa Lahiri

“They’ve lived here now for more than half of their lives, and they raised a family here and now have grandchildren here… It has become their home, but at the same time, for my parents, I don’t think either of them will ever consciously think, ‘I am an American.’”

― Jhumpa Lahiri
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