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Sebald Lecture 2021

The Sebald Lecture 2021

The 2021 W.G. Sebald Lecture was given by Jhumpa Lahiri on Wednesday 2nd June 2021

In partnership with the British Library and the National Centre for Writing, the 2021 BCLT Sebald Lecture took place ONLINE on Wednesday 2nd June 2021, 4pm-5.30pm (British Summer Time) 

'In Praise of Echo'

Jhumpa Lahiri

This year’s Sebald Lecture on literary translation was given by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri reflected on the myth of Echo and Narcissus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in the light of her own practice as a translator, self-translator and teacher of literary translation. Considering metamorphosis as a kind of translation, Lahiri held up the fate of Echo, in particular, as a metaphor for the translation process that has much to teach us about identity, originality and finding a voice. She discussed her own transformations – from novelist to translator, from a writer of English to a writer of Italian – and emphasised the value of translation to any literary writer.

Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000 for her debut short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies. Since then she has published in English a further story collection (Unaccustomed Earth, 2008) and two novels: The Namesake (2003) and The Lowland (2013, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize). In 2012 she immersed herself in the Italian language and moved to Italy, documenting the process in her Italian-language memoir In altre parole (translated by Ann Goldstein as In Other Words, 2016). She has published her own translations from the Italian of two novels by Domenico Starnone – Ties (2017) and Trick (2018), the latter awarded the 2020 John Florio Prize by the UK Society of Authors. Her Italian-language novel Dove mi trovo (2018) is forthcoming in English self-translation as Whereabouts (May 2021). Jhumpa Lahiri is Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University, and divides her time between Princeton and Rome.

The Sebald Lecture is given annually on an aspect of literature in translation and is named after W.G. Sebald who set up BCLT in 1989. ‘Max’ was a German writer who opted to live in the UK and continue writing in German. His novels and essays include The Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz and On the Natural History of Destruction, and they established him as a leading writer of the 20th century.

Photo (c) Elena Seibert

The lecture is available to view online until 21st July 2021.