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The protagonist of Whereabouts could be the everywoman. It is a book of observation and introspection, of the ordinary that makes life such a universal experience.
I’m caught in the charade, I play a part in it, albeit as an extra.’
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri is a translated novel of her original Italian, Dove mi Trovo (“Where I Am” or “Where I Find Myself”) with the entire translation done by the author herself. And it shows. If I had not known there was an original version of this text, I would have readily believed the English prose to be the original, because it reads without a glitch.
This novel does not have a typical, plot-heavy narrative. It is about one woman in her mid-40s, living in an unnamed city in Italy, a writer working as a professor at the local university. She is the narrator who takes us on a trip over the course of a year of her life. We get to go to the places she visits, meet the people she meets, and observe and imagine the lives she chooses.
The protagonist often finds comfort in the little moments of affection she derives from momentary conversations with a friend’s husband, with fleeting lovers, with a dog she’s watching over for the friends. Still, there are moments where she’s at a dinner party, at a wedding, at a baptism, and she feels at odds with the setting – alone in a crowd of known faces.
Though not likeable in the cookie cutter sense as a protagonist, I found the narrator relatable in many ways. Such as, while discussing the fears which inhabit her mind out of the blue –
‘If anything, I’m about to have a perfectly forgettable day: a class to teach, a meeting with colleagues, maybe a movie. But I’m afraid of forgetting something crucial – my cell phone or my identity card, my health insurance or my keys. And I’m afraid of running into trouble.’
When she and another woman realized they had been sharing a boyfriend for five years – ‘We realized we were two survivors, and in the end we felt like partners in a crime. Each revelation was devastating. Everything she said. And yet, even as my life shattered in pieces, I felt as if I were finally coming up for air.’
Growing up in a family priding in frugality, the narrator as a young girl was often reminded how wasteful some expenses could be. Those teachings follow her around even now – ‘If I walk into a store, if I admire something but don’t buy it, if I walk out and manage to avoid the cash register, I feel like a virtuous daughter.’ But, of course, sometimes – ‘And if I cave, well, I cave.’
All in all, Whereabouts is a book of observation and introspection, separate and influenced by one another. It is about the ordinary things in life, the regular things in life, and its lack of plot – and names – makes me wonder if this book could have existed in English if it had not first been written in Italian.
I’ll leave the review with this quote from The Office: “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”
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Image source: a still from Filter Copy Middle Class Things and book cover Amazon
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Clumsy. Awkward. Straight-forward. A writer, in progress. A pencil sketch artist by hobby.
IG: @leesplash read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
As long as teachers are competent in their job, and adhere to the workplace code of conduct, how does it matter what they do in their personal lives?
A 30 year old Associate Professor at a well-known University, according to an FIR filed by her, was forced to resign because the father of one of her students complained that he found his son looking at photographs of her, which according to him were “objectionable” and “bordering on nudity”.
There are two aspects to this case, which are equally disturbing, and which together make me question where we are heading as a society.
When the father of an 18 year old finds his son looking at photographs of a lady in a swimsuit, he can do many things. What this parent allegedly did was to dash off a letter to the University which states: