Jhumpa Lahiri and Ernest Hemingway’s adoration of far away lands

I’m opening 2020 reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Jhumpa Lahiri‘s In Other Words.

This wasn’t a planned joint reading adventure, but there was a natural connection between the two – the deep adoration both authors shared for their temporary homes.

Lahiri on the sounds of Florence that captured her:

– But from the start my relationship with Italy is as auditory as it is visual. Although there aren’t many cars, the city is humming. I’m aware of a sound that I like, of conversations, phrases, words that I hear wherever I go. As if the whole city were a theater in which a slightly restless audience is chatting before the show begins. I hear the excitement of children wishing each other buon Natale – merry Christmas – on the street. I hear the tenderness with which, one morning at the hotel, the woman who cleans the room asks me: Avete dormito bene? Did you sleep well? When a man behind me on the sidewalk wants to pass, I hear the slight impatience with which he asks: Permesson? May I?

In Other Words, pg 13,15. Lahiri, Jhumpa

Hemingway on the coming Paris Spring:

With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.

In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.

A Moveable Feast, pg48. Hemingway, Ernest

Start with one page

I start with very short pieces, usually no more than a handwritten page. I try to focus on something specific: a person, a moment, a place. I do what I ask my students to do when I teach creative writing. I explain to them that such fragments are the first steps to take before constructing a story. I think a writer should observe the real world before imagining a nonexistent one.

In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri. pg 61

Many of the exercises Jhumpa describes for learning how to write in Italian can be used for improving your writing in English.

Start small. Start by filling one page.