PEN Presents: Jhumpa Lahiri with Maaza Mengiste

Headshots and names of Jhumpa Lahiri and Maaza Mengiste with multicolor ripped paper on bottom edge


This event is part of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit to learn more and get tickets for other events.

Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies, discusses Whereabouts, her first novel in nearly 10 years—and the first book she’s translated into English from Italian.

In Whereabouts, we’re immersed, through fragmentary chapters, in the life of a protagonist who luxuriates in her freedom and dreads her alienation. By turns a rootless wanderer and female flâneur, Lahiri’s narrator takes to the streets of her unnamed Italian city, as she meanders through her limitless interiority, reconsidering herself in relation to family, coworkers, and friends, often at a remove from the life and connection with which her city brims. Lahiri’s arresting prose here “shimmers with precise detail” (The San Francisco Chronicle), and her descriptions of small, solo moments resonate as the slowly-receding pandemic leaves behind an era marked by necessary distance from others, by masses of people sinking ever deeper into themselves.

Of her writing in Italian—a language she vividly described honing in her acclaimed 2016 memoir In Other Words—Lahiri tells The New Yorker, “It belongs to another part of me, one that I have only recently unearthed and begun to cultivate.” Whereabouts marks a new era of artistic transformation and cross-lingual insight for one of our worldliest living writers.

Maaza Mengiste, whose most recent book, The Shadow King, was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, will join Lahiri to discuss these topics and more on language, power, and outsiderness.

A copy of Whereabouts comes with each ticket purchase, courtesy of Strand Book Store. The first 200 purchases come with a signed bookplate. Books will begin shipping the day after the event. You will automatically receive tracking as your order ships. Please allow two weeks for your books to arrive.

This digital event will start at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT. If you have any questions, please visit our FAQs.

Presented in collaboration with Strand Book Store.

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Jhumpa Lahiri headshotJhumpa Lahiri is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland; and a work of nonfiction, In Other Words. She has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; the PEN/Hemingway Award; the PEN/Malamud Award; the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award; the Premio Gregor von Rezzori; the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; the 2014 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama; and the Premio Internazionale Viareggio-Versilia, for In altre parole.

Maaza Mengiste headshotMaaza Mengiste is the author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, and a recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. It was named a best book of 2019 by The New York Times, NPR, TIME, ELLE, and other publications. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, her debut, was selected by The Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books.

About Strand Book Store

Located on 12th and Broadway in New York City, the Strand Book Store is a family-owned, iconic literary destination with more than 90 years of history and 18 miles of books to prove it. Its events feature some of today’s most interesting and provocative authors. Its unparalleled inventory of 2.5 million new, used, and rare books and locally designed totes, gifts, and apparel makes it easy and exciting to get lost in the stacks.

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