Interpreter of maladies

By now Jhumpa Lahiri is a household name, by most counts she’s a very good writer with a great public appeal – I remember reading a really appreciative review of her second short story collection “The Unaccustomed Earth” – and yet I stumbled upon her debut volume in a friend’s house last weekend so I gave it a try. Normally, I’m not a short story fan – but this wasn’t just another short story. Maybe it’s my thing for writers of Indian (Bangladesh, in this case) descent, or maybe (and most likely) it’s the sheer brilliance of her writing, but I simply fell in love. With the book, with her…with everything.

There are 9 short stories, each about a Indian immigrant in the US (as Ms. Lahiri herself is) – except for “The interpreter of maladies”, which takes place in India.  All of them feature rather ordinary moments in ordinary people’s lives – it’s almost voyeuristic, in a way – you feel like you’ve stepped into the intimacy of a household and you’re watching them from behind a curtain. You’re a witness to little dramas, little disappointments or little joys – just a handful of the bricks life is made of.

Most of the stories are…I would say sad, except that I think bittersweet is a much better description. And the way I see it, it’s something all Indian descendant authors I’ve read (true, not that many, but I’m working on it) share – a certain longing for a long lost “home” that turns their characters towards nostalgia and a passive acceptance of certain things in their new life. Bittersweet – there’s nothing that works better.

And, the ever-so-funny Raych wrote about it – she loved it, yay! 😛  I mean, there’s no way you won’t love this book – and even if you’re not all that crazy about it, at least it’s tiny 😉 Me, I wanted it to go on forever 😀


~ by ameer on May 23, 2008.

8 Responses to “Interpreter of maladies”

  1. That’s nice way of putting it – ‘almost voyeuristic’. This was definitely a good book. Though, I have to admit that I was disappointed with ‘The Namesake’, it was monotonous.

    DM (

  2. Bittersweet is one of my favorite words. I love short stories. The make me think, because I always have the feeling that something is missing, so I have to continu the story somehow.

  3. Good work, indeed. However, much too hyped. It is not to say it is not good enough, just to point out that I didn’t like it as much as I expected. I would still concede that it’s remarkable in its simplicity. That far I do agree with you.

  4. @ligia: then you should definitely – definitely read it 😀

    @HemRaj: I don’t really look out for stuff that’s very popular – actually, the more popular a book is the less I expect to like it. So I wasn’t disappointed at all. On the contrary 😉

  5. I confess that I’ve never heard about Jhumpa Lahiri before. But simplicity to an Indian (Bangladesh) writer, it’s something … almost unbelievable 🙂

  6. Whee! Yay, I’m glad you liked it!

  7. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Elephantiasis!!!!

  8. Not entirely sure there was supposed to be a point to all this. Because that’s the deal with these stories, there’s no particular point to them either, and they’re still unbelievably charming 😀

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