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Jhumpa Lahiri opens the Academic Year

The Pulitzer prize winner held a speech on the role of language and translation in opening oneself to diversity


On February 21, 2019, Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer prize winner, opened the academic year before President of the Republic Sergio Matterella, with a speech on the role of language and translation in opening oneself to diversity.

Language does not observe itself like Narcissus, but is more like Echo, reverberating and spreading out to connect vastly different worlds. This is the leitmotiv of the speech given by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Jhumpa Lahiri, to whom Luiss University entrusted the inaugural Lectio Magistralis of the 2018/2019 academic year. The translator and writer of Indian origin conveyed commitment with her thoughts on what sense can be drawn from translating Elogio all'Eco. Recalling the famous myth of Narcissus, the writer affirmed that writing, like language, knows no boundaries. From this perspective, crossing a border means welcoming a new language, a new culture, new places, it means making them your own and identifying with them. Translation allows writing to lose its solipsistic attitude and open itself to diversity. “Only by confronting each other," explains Lahiri, "will you avoid being trapped, like Narcissus, in an everlasting reflection on yourself."

Her words, and those of professor Giuseppe Francesco Italiano (who provided the inaugural address on artificial intelligence) served as inspiration for the closing speech by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. The figure of the translator, whose work enables her to overcome the fear of difference and break down borders, must also serve as a warning “for our times, which tempt us to retreat within ourselves as individuals, within social groups and within domestic realities." President Mattarella also reminded us of the eminent role of universities. “Study and the deepening of knowledge are elements that our country greatly needs,” he remarked. "It is essential to be attentive and to understand reality. One must have the ability to strengthen one’s knowledge by evading approximation and improvisation."

These words epitomize the Luiss model, insisted Rector Andrea Prencipe: “An educational model open to the world, one that trains polyglot professionals. People capable of conversing with different cultures and experts of different disciplines, enhancing their differences and connections”. In Luiss, “internationalization” means “educating for diversity."

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