Jhumpa Lahiri

Barnard College (USA)

Senior Fellow

A new translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses

2023–2024: Fall

Jhumpa Lahiri is a bilingual writer, translator, and literary critic born in London and raised in the United States.

She has just joined the Academy as a Senior Fellow and, for this semester, she is also resident in the Academy building as part of the Fall 2023 cohort of Fellows.

She is the Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Barnard (the college where she got her B.A. in English). Prof. Lahiri earned her graduate degrees at Boston University: an M.A. in English Literature, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. 

In English, she is the author of two short-story collections (Interpreter of MaladiesUnaccustomed Earth) and two novels (The NamesakeThe Lowland) all of which explore the experiences of Bengali immigrants in the United States. In Italian, she has written two works of non-fiction: In altre parole (translated into English by Ann Goldstein as In Other Words, and Il vestito dei libri (translated as The Clothing of Books by Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush. In Italian, she has also published the novel Dove mi trovo (self-translated as Whereabouts), and a volume of poetry entitled Il quaderno di Nerina (forthcoming in English as Nerina’s notebook). She has translated three novels by the Italian writer Domenico Starnone, and is the editor of The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories. A contributor for over twenty-five years to The New Yorker magazine, she has published critical essays on authors including Ovid, Dante, Primo Levi, Alessandro Manzoni, and James Joyce. The subject of her doctoral dissertation was an analysis of the Italian palazzo as setting and metaphor in English Jacobean drama.

Her teaching interests include the theory and practice of literary translation, the Italian short story, exophonic writers, Classical reception and adaptation, and the diary as literary craft and form. At Princeton University, she taught in the Humanities Sequence (“Approaches to Western Culture: from Antiquity to the Middle Ages”) and founded the university’s first interdisciplinary course on the Surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington. She served as Director of Princeton’s Creative Writing Program for three years and helped to inaugurate Princeton’s Translator-in-Residence program position. Her recognitions include the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. She is a Board member of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a permanent juror for the Strega Prize in Italy, and is part of the editorial committee of the historic Italian literary journal Nuovi Argomenti. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012, and was on the jury of the Venice Film Festival in 2014. In 2016, she received a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.

Lahiri holds a B.A. in English from Barnard College. She earned her graduate degrees at Boston University: an M.A. in English Literature, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has received honorary degrees from The University of Pennsylvania, Williams College, and the University of Rhode Island, and in Italy, from the University of Siena per Stranieri and from the University of Bologna.

Her most recent English-language publication is a volume of essays, Translating Myself and Others. Her third book of short stories, Racconti romani, was published in Italy in September 2022, and appears in the English language in 2023 as Roman Stories, translated by the author in collaboration with Todd Portnowitz. She is currently co-translating, with Professor Yelena Baraz at Princeton University, Ovid’s Metamorphoses from Latin to English for The Modern Library.

*photo by Elena Seibert