My responsibility isn't to paint a flattering portrait; my responsibility is to paint a real portrait, a true portrait.

He was proud to have come alone to America. To learn it, as he once must have learned to stand and walk and speak. He'd wanted so much to leave Calcutta, not only for the sake of his education but also—he could admit this to himself now—to take a step that Udayan never would.

Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby's birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true. As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can't help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived.

She supposed that all those years of loving a person who was dishonest had taught her a few things.

When you live in a country where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement. You speak a secret, unknown language, lacking any correspondence to the environment. An absence that creates a distance within you.

She'd told Bela that the feeling would ebb but never fully go away. It would form part of her landscape, wherever she went. She said that her mother's absence would always be present in her thoughts. She told Bela that there would never be an answer for why she'd gone.

From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.

For as grateful as she feels for the company of the Nandis and Dr. Gupta, these acquaintances are only substitutes for the people who really ought to be surrounding them. Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby's birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true.

I'm bound to fail when I write in Italian, but unlike my sense of failure in the past, this doesn't torment or grieve me.

My parents had an arranged marriage, as did so many other people when I was growing up. My father came and had a life in the United States one way and my mother had a different one, and I was very aware of those things. I continue to wonder about it, and I will continue to write about it.

What does a word mean? And a life? In the end, it seems to me, the same thing. Just as a word can have many dimensions, many nuances, great complexity, so, too, can a person, a life. Language is the mirror, the principal metaphor. Because ultimately the meaning of a word, like that of a person, is boundless, ineffable.

I have my husband and children near me in Rome, and I feel this is where we are temporarily belonging. But personally, all my life, I have felt the absence of a sense of history.

He longed for sleep, but it would not immerse him; that night the waters he sought for his repose were deep enough to wade in, but not to swim.

The urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another is the most basic, ongoing impulse of my life.

How is it possible to feel exiled from a language that isn't mine? That I don't know? Maybe because I'm a writer who doesn't belong completely to any language.

With children the clock is reset. We forget what came before.

At 6:30, which was when the national news began, my father raised the volume and adjusted the antennas. Usually I occupied myself with a book, but that night my father insisted that I pay attention.

No man wants a woman who dresses like a dishwasher.

I wish more Italian literature were translated and read in English. I've discovered so many extraordinary and diverse writers: Lalla Romano, Carlo Cassola. Beppe Fenoglio, Giorgio Manganelli, just to name a few.

In Bengali class, Gogol is taught to read and write his ancestral alphabet, which begins at the back of his throat with an unaspirated K and marches steadily across the roof of his mouth, ending with elusive vowels that hover outside his lips.

She has the gift of accepting her life; as he comes to know her, he realizes that she has never wished she were anyone other than herself, raised in any other place, in any other way.

The camera slung around his neck...was the only complicated thing he wore.

I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

Oddly, I feel more protected when I write in Italian, even though I'm also more exposed.

She wanted to shut her eyes to it. She wished the days and months ahead of her would end. But the rest of her life continued to present itself, time ceaselessly proliferating. She was made to anticipate it against her will.

They still feel somehow in transit, still disconnected from their lives, bound up in an alternate schedule, an intimacy only the four of them would share.

They tolerate my mistakes. They correct me, they encourage me, they provide the words I lack. They speak clearly, patiently. Just like parents with their children.

I write about characters that interest me. And I don't think of my books as being forms of entertainment.

Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.

In graduate school, I decide to write my doctoral thesis on how Italian architecture influenced English playwrights of the seventeenth century. I wonder why certain playwrights decided to set their tragedies, written in English, in Italian palaces.

I don't know, he said, handing her the ticket. He'd been standing there all the while on the sidewalk, waiting for her. Waiting, until they were in the darkness of the theatre, to take her hand.

She had denied herself the pleasure of openly sharing life with the person she loved.

They don't understand why I want to take such a risk. These reactions don't surprise me. A transformation, especially one that is deliberately sought, is often perceived as something disloyal, threatening.

He looks up at her, and behind her, at the sky, which holds more stars than he ever has seen at one time, crowded together, a mess of dust and gems.

Maybe because from the creative point of view there is nothing so dangerous as security.

But he was no longer in Tollygunge. He had stepped out of it as he had stepped so many mornings out of dreams, its reality and its particular logic rendered meaningless in the light of day.

Back then she had only wanted to shut the door to it, to be apart from Subhash and Bela. She'd been incapable of cherishing what she'd had.

Our meals, our actions, were only a shadow of what had already happened there, a lagging ghost of where Mr. Pirzada really belonged.

Dissecting my linguistic metamorphosis, I realize that I'm trying to get away from something, to free myself. I've been writing in Italian for almost two years, and I feel that I've been transformed, almost reborn.

I just wanted to go home, to the language in which I was known, and loved.

I had never traveled alone before and I discovered that I liked it. No one in the world knew where I was, no one had the ability to reach me. It was like being dead, my escape allowing me to taste that tremendous power my mother possessed forever.

Glowing screens, increasingly foldable, portable, companionable, anticipating any possible question the human brain might generate.

The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol. For Gogol Ganguli, it says on the front endpaper in his father's tranquil hand, in red ballpoint ink, the letters rising gradually, optimistically, on the diagonal toward the upper right-hand corner of the page. The man who gave you his name, from the man who gave you your name is written within quotation marks.

Unlike her parents, and her other relatives, her grandmother had not admonished Ashima not to eat beef or wear skirts or cut off her hair or forget her family the moment she landed in Boston. Her grandmother had not been fearful of such signs of betrayal; she was the only person to predict, rightly, that Ashima would never change.

Relax, Edith says. The perfect name will come to you in time. Which is when Gogol announces, There's no such thing. No such thing as what? Astrid says. There's no such thing as a perfect name. I think that human beings should be allowed to name themselves when they turn eighteen, he adds. Until then, pronouns.

I have very little choice. If I don't write, I feel dreadful. So I write.

I feel as though I've gotten to a point where I don't really want to set a book in any real place ever again.

If you grow up in a place, and you're small, even if the place is itself also small, it's huge to you. It's what's out there: it's the world outside of your door.

The reactions haven't differed; the concerns have been different. When I read for a predominantly Indian audience, there are more questions that are based on issues of identity and representation.