Monday, April 18, 2016

Quotes from "In Other Words"

"What passes without being put into words, without being transformed and, in a certain sense purified by the crucible of writing, has no meaning to me." p.87

"If it were possible to bridge the distance between me and Italian, I would stop writing in that language." p.95

"I've bee in writing since I was a child in order to forget my imperfections, in order to hide in the background of life. In a certain sense writing is an extended homage to imperfection. A book, like a person, remains imperfect, incomplete, during its entire creation. At the end of the gestation, the gestation the person is born, then grows, but I consider a book alive only during the writing. Afterwards, at least for me, it dies." p.113 (An interesting notion, but I'm not sure if this speaks to my heart as nicely as it does to my ears.)

"I now have quite an extensive vocabulary, but it's an eccentric one. I feel as if I were dressed in an outlandish manner, wearing a long elegant skirt of another era, a T-shirt, a straw hat, and slippers. That graceless effect, those muddled tones might be the consequence of the distance, from the beginning, between me and Italian: of my having adsorbed the language for years from afar, from a variety of sources, before I lived in Italy." p. 179 (Nicely expresses how it is like to write in a second language.)

"Matisse's new approach was at first received with distrust, with skepticism. One critic found it, at best, 'a pleasant distraction.' The artist, too, was unsure. Cutting, for Matisse, began as an exercise, an experiment. Without knowing what it meant, he followed an unknown path, exploring on an increasingly vast scale." p.205 (In any case, I suppose Lahiri was lucky enough to be in a position where she could afford a "pleasant distraction.")

"The effort of making the language mine, of possessing it, has a strong resemblance to a creative process--mysterious, illogical. But the possession is not authentic: it, too, is a sort of fiction." p. 213 (She goes on clarifying:  "The language is true, but the manner in which I absorb and use it seems false. A vocabulary that is sought-after, acquired, remains forever anomalous, as if it were counterfeit, even though it's not.")

"Italian remains the mask, the filter, the outlet, the means. The detachment without which I can't create anything. And it's this detachment that helps me show my face."

On page 223, Lahiri says "I'm afraid it's frivolous, even presumptuous. ... I wonder if it will be considered a dead end, or, at best, 'a pleasant distraction.'" I think she has a good point.

Quoting Lalla ROmano: "in a book everything is true, nothing is true."