Today for your consideration, Dear Readers: two books you can read in an afternoon.
First is Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words, a book of short meditations on her love for Italian. A few years ago, the writer acclaimed for books including The Interpreter of Maladies and The Lowland moved to Italy and committed to reading and writing exclusively in Italian, which she had started learning in her twenties (and which is, by the way, her third language). Ms. Lahiri wrote the book in Italian, and the original is presented side-by-side with Ann Goldstein’s translation into English (if that names sounds familiar, it might be because she also translates Elena Ferrante’s work).
I loved reading this (and it was fun to dip into the Italian to look for phrases to puzzle out, or just to whisper all those delightful consonants), not only for the language, but also for its consideration of isolation, belonging, effort, mastery, and passion. Highly recommended.
Next is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo, edited and with notes by esteemed Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger. Drawn from the Kalevala, a Finnish epic, the tragic tale follows Kullervo, one of the inspirations for The Silmarillion‘s Túrin Turambar. Here’s the summary from the publisher:
Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruelest of fates.
It’s a rather grim tale, and I think that if you’re not a Tolkien die-hard, this book isn’t for you, since the story itself is not fully fleshed out. The explanatory material is quite interesting, though, and it put the Kalevala on my to-read list.
Have you read any afternoon-long books recently?