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Interpreter of Maladies: Stories of Bengal, Boston and Beyond

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Pulitzer-winning, scintillating studies in yearning and exile from a Bengali Bostonian woman of immense promise.


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Pulitzer-winning, scintillating studies in yearning and exile from a Bengali Bostonian woman of immense promise.

30 review for Interpreter of Maladies: Stories of Bengal, Boston and Beyond

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    How’s this for blurbs: when the female author published this collection of short stories at age 32 in 1999, she won the Pulitzer Prize, the Pen/Hemingway Award and the New Yorker’s Debut Book of the Year. Like the author’s other collection of shorts that I have reviewed (Unaccustomed Earth, 2008) these stories are about Bengali immigrants in the US from the Bengal area of India, around Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). There are about 250 million Bengalis in the subcontinent, about 2/3 making up the How’s this for blurbs: when the female author published this collection of short stories at age 32 in 1999, she won the Pulitzer Prize, the Pen/Hemingway Award and the New Yorker’s Debut Book of the Year. Like the author’s other collection of shorts that I have reviewed (Unaccustomed Earth, 2008) these stories are about Bengali immigrants in the US from the Bengal area of India, around Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). There are about 250 million Bengalis in the subcontinent, about 2/3 making up the Muslim nation of Bangladesh and about 1/3, mostly Hindus, in West Bengal, a state in India. But, with the exception of two stories, these folks are not urban slum dogs --they are upper-income folks with PhD’s and MD’s who grew up speaking English in India and who came to the USA to be doctors, professors and engineers in the high-tech beltway bandit firms around Boston. They live in Boston townhouses and upscale suburbs. And there’s a twist to saying these stories are about “immigrants” because most folks in these stories were fully assimilated into the global upper class before they even arrived in the USA. Here’s a sample of what the nine stories are about: In the title story, a man who is an interpreter of native Indian languages for a doctor is also a tour guide for visitors to India. He tells this to a Bengali couple, with their kids, visiting from the states. The wife, desperate for someone to confide in, thinks he is like a psychological counselor and pours out her secrets, shocking the tour guide. In “Mrs. Sen’s,” an eleven-year old boy learns the depth of the loneliness of a Bengali woman in Boston who desperately misses her native country and her large extended family back in India. “A Real Durwan” is one of two stories set back in India, not in the USA. A poverty-stricken old woman, bent with age, has a job sweeping the stairwell in an apartment building. She sleeps on a pile of rags below the mailboxes. As improvements are made to the building the tenants decide they want a real concierge and toss her onto the street. In “Sexy,” a young Bengali woman listens every day to her Bengali co-worker aghast at the infidelity of her cousin’s husband who has left his wife for a younger unmarried woman. Although she and the co-worker are best of friends, the Bengali woman can’t tell her that she herself is having an affair with a married man. In “This Blessed House,” a young Bengali couple has just moved into a new home and they keep finding posters of Jesus behind closet doors, crosses, statues of Mary in the bushes and nativity scenes in nooks and corner. Over her husband’s objections, the wife collects these and displays them on the mantle. “ ‘We’re not Christian,’ Sanjeev said. Lately he had begun noticing the need to state the obvious to Twinkle.” Sanjeev is an introverted engineer. And it could just be that life-of-the-party Twinkle, despite her poor housekeeping skills, could just be the complementary partner Sanjeev needs if he has sense to hold on to her. The stories in the author’s collection, Unaccustomed Earth, were very good but Maladies is excellent. No wonder it won so many awards. Map from portcities.org.uk

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    You know a book's good when someone asks you for a synopsis, or snippet, or impression, and all you can do is smile there, enveloped in some subtle magic that only you know about, & kinda forget what it was all about altogether. This happened with "Interpreter of Maladies", a perfectly-titled collection of short stories about Indian Americans in India or in the U.S. Their ages & experiences range from children to marrieds to 103 year-olds, from tourism in the old world to the natural assimilatio You know a book's good when someone asks you for a synopsis, or snippet, or impression, and all you can do is smile there, enveloped in some subtle magic that only you know about, & kinda forget what it was all about altogether. This happened with "Interpreter of Maladies", a perfectly-titled collection of short stories about Indian Americans in India or in the U.S. Their ages & experiences range from children to marrieds to 103 year-olds, from tourism in the old world to the natural assimilation to a new one. The first story makes me shiver just thinking about it--I made my students read it as an example of the perfect short story. & the last one encapsulates the author's overall thesis perfectly. It's all a masterpiece. A privilege to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    In 2000 Jhumpa Lahiri became the first Indian American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies. In these nine poignant stories, Lahiri relates the Indian immigrant experience, connecting the tales and creating one voice for them. The stories shared a sadness of being separated from one's family by thousands of miles, yet also offered a glimmer of hope for their lives in India or the United States. Not generally a reader of short stories, t In 2000 Jhumpa Lahiri became the first Indian American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies. In these nine poignant stories, Lahiri relates the Indian immigrant experience, connecting the tales and creating one voice for them. The stories shared a sadness of being separated from one's family by thousands of miles, yet also offered a glimmer of hope for their lives in India or the United States. Not generally a reader of short stories, this year I read two powerful novels, Homegoing and The Book of Unknown Americans, which told one story in vignettes. Unlike these two books, however, Maladies is nine separate stories which share one overarching theme. The characters never meet even if they came from the same city in India to the same city in America, craving the company and friendship of other Indian Americans. Lahiri does a masterful job of giving purpose to her protagonists even if in some cases we only get to know them for fifteen short pages. As each story begins in a negative light and ends positively, the reader looks forward to each successive story in the collection. Even though each story is brilliant in its own right, three stand out in creating an upbeat environment upon conclusion: the keynote story The Interpreter of Maladies where Mrs. Das comes to terms with herself as the story ends; The Story of Bibi Haldar where the title character is ostracized and desires to marry above all else; and the ending story The Third and Final Continent with an unnamed protagonist who looks back on his first days in America thirty years later. All share the theme of Indians who find it easier to hang on their customs than assimilate, creating people proud of their culture yet longing for their old country. This did not seem all too different to me than immigrants from other ethnicities and Lahiri does a superb job of making the Indian experience stand alone. Lahiri was raised in suburban Boston in Rhode Island and appears to create her characters from childhood memories. Whether it was two Indian girls going trick or treating or a newlywed couple grappling with whether to observe Hinduism or Christianity, the stories are written in a labor of love. Each story is penned with the details of the color and texture of the women's saris to the brand of tea that the characters drank. From reading the stories of of these immigrants, I felt empathy with their lives as second half twentieth century arrivals to America. Jhumpa Lahiri has weaved together stories of sadness yet has her readers leave feeling positive about her characters. Although short in length, each story is powerful from start to finish and has the readers desiring to know more about the characters' lives. A collection worthy of the Pulitzer, I look forward to reading more of Lahiri's work. Interpreter of Maladies rates 5 bright stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri Interpreter of Maladies is a book collection of nine short stories by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri published in 1999. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in the year 2000. The stories are about the lives of Indians and Indian Americans who are caught between their roots and the "New World." Content: A Temporary Matter: A married couple, Shukumar and Shoba, live as strangers in their house until an electrical out Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri Interpreter of Maladies is a book collection of nine short stories by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri published in 1999. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in the year 2000. The stories are about the lives of Indians and Indian Americans who are caught between their roots and the "New World." Content: A Temporary Matter: A married couple, Shukumar and Shoba, live as strangers in their house until an electrical outage brings them together when all of sudden "they [are] able to talk to each other again" in the four nights of darkness. When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine: Mr. Pirzada is a botany professor from Dhaka and is living in New England for the year after receiving a research grant from the Pakistani Government; he has left behind his wife and seven daughters, Interpreter of Maladies: Mr. and Mrs. Das, Indian Americans visiting the country of their heritage, hire a middle-aged tour guide Mr. Kapasi as their driver for the day as they tour. A Real Durwan: Boori Ma is a feeble 64-year-old woman from Calcutta who is the stairsweeper, or durwan, of an old brick building. In exchange for her services, the residents allow Boori Ma to sleep in front of the collapsible gates leading into the tenement. Sexy: “Sexy” centers on Miranda, a young white woman who has an affair with a married Indian man named Dev. Although one of Miranda's work friends is an Indian woman named Laxmi, Miranda knows very little about India and its culture. Mrs. Sen's: In this story, 11-year-old Eliot begins staying with Mrs. Sen—a university professor's wife—after school. The caretaker, Mrs. Sen, chops and prepares food as she tells Eliot stories of her past life in Calcutta, helping to craft her identity. This Blessed House: Sanjeev and Twinkle, a newly married couple, are exploring their new house in Hartford, Connecticut, which appears to have been owned by fervent Christians: they keep finding gaudy Biblical paraphernalia hidden throughout the house. The Treatment of Bibi Haldar: 29-year-old Bibi Haldar is gripped by a mysterious ailment, and myriad tests and treatments have failed to cure her. She has been told to stand on her head, shun garlic, drink egg yolks in milk, to gain weight and to lose weight. The Third and Final Continent: The narrator lives in India, then moves to London, then finally to America. The title of this story tells us that the narrator has lived in three different continents and chooses to stay in the third, North America. عنوانها: «ترجمان دردها»؛ «ترجمان ناخوشی‌ها»؛ «مترجم بیماریها»؛ «مترجم دردها»؛ «مترجم ناخوشی‌ها»؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش ماه نوامبر سال 2001میلادی عنوان: ترجمان دردها؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، شهر کتاب، هرمس، 1380؛ در 124ص؛ شابک ایکس - 964363003؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛ در 197ص؛ چاپ سوم 1388؛ شابک 9789643630034؛ چاپ چهارم 1393؛ موضوع داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده ی 20م عنوان: مترجم دردها، نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: امیرمهدی حقیقت؛ تهران، ماهی، 1380؛ در 266ص؛ شابک 9649333393؛چاپ دوم 1381؛ چاپ چهارم 1385؛ پنجم 1388؛ در 224ص؛ شابک 9789649333335؛ ششم 1389؛ هشتم 1391؛ نهم 1393؛ عنوان: مترجم ناخوشی‌ها؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: تینا حمیدی؛ تهران، ویدا، 1380؛ در 202ص؛ شابک 9646807100؛ عنوان: ترجمان ناخوشی‌ها؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: حمیده صفارمحمدی؛ اهواز، مردمک، 1382؛ در 307ص؛ شابک 9649125140؛ عنوان: مترجم بیماریها، نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: ویدا اسلامیه؛ تهران، نشر علم، 1383؛ در 302ص؛ شابک 9644053648؛ عنوان: مترجم دردها، نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: محمدعلی صوتی؛ تهران، نیک آئین، 1383؛ در 214ص؛ شابک 9647356110؛ عنوان: مترجم دردها، نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: آبتین خردمند؛ تهران، کولهپشتی، 1392؛ در 254ص؛ شابک 9786006687773؛ فهرست داستانها: «موضوع موقت»، «وقتی آقای پیرزاده برای شام میآمد»، «ترجمان دردها (مترجم دردها)»، «دربان واقعی»، «جذاب»، «خانه خانم سن»، «این خانه متبرک» و ...؛ مجموعه داستان «ترجمان دردها» با اینکه نخستین کتاب «جومپا لاهیری»، نویسنده ی «هندی تبار امریکایی» است؛ اما در زمانی کوتاه، پس از انتشار، برنده ی جایزه ی بهترین کتاب «نیویورکر»، جایزه ی «پن همینگوی»، جایزه ی «کتاب برگزیده ی پابلیشرز ویکلی»، جایزه ی «ادیسن مت کاف» از «آکادمی هنر و ادبیات آمریکا»، جایزه ی «کتاب برگزیده نیویورک تایمز»، جایزه ی «اْ هنری»، نامزد جایزه ی «لوس آنجلس تایمز»، و برنده ی جایزه ی «پولیتزر ادبی سال 2000میلادی» شده است؛ رویدادی که برای یک مجموعه داستان کوتاه، کمتر روی میدهد، اینبار این رویداد برای کتابی است که به فرهنگ و آداب مردمان شرق میپردازد نقل نمونه متن از داستان ترجمان دردها: (کاغذ، وقتی که آقای کاپاسی نشانی‌اش را با دستخطی واضح و خوانا رویش می‌نوشت، لوله می‌شد؛ خانم «داس» حتما برایش نامه می‌نوشت، از کار مترجمی ‌اش در مطب دکتر می‌پرسید، و او به زبانی شیوا و فصیح پاسخ می‌داد، فقط جالبترین لطیفه‌ ها را انتخاب می‌کرد، تا او موقع خواندنشان در خانه ‌اش در «نیوجرزی» با صدای بلند بخندد؛ به ‌موقعش، سرخوردگی خود را، از ازدواجش فاش می‌کرد، او هم همین‌طور؛ به این ترتیب، صمیمی‌تر می‌شدند، و دوستی‌شان عمیقتر می‌شد.؛ آن موقع، دیگر عکسی از خودشان دو تا داشت، در حال خوردن پیاز سرخ‌ شده زیر چتری زرشکی ‌رنگ، که خیال داشت آن را لای کتاب دستور زبان روسی ‌اش محفوظ نگه دارد.؛ آقای «کاپاسی»، در همان حال که ذهنش به‌ سرعت کار می‌کرد، ناگهان دچار احساس ملایم و خوشایندی شد؛ مثل احساسی بود، که مدتها پیش، بعد از ماهها ترجمه کردن، به کمک فرهنگ لغت، به او دست می‌داد، وقتی که عاقبت قطعه ‌ای از یک رمان «فرانسوی» یا شعری «ایتالیایی» را می‌خواند، و کلماتش را، که گرهشان در نتیجه ی تلاش خودش باز شده بود، یکی پس از دیگری می‌فهمید؛ در آن لحظات، آقای «کاپاسی» احساس می‌کرد، که همه چیز دنیا درست است، که همه ی تلاشها به ثمر می‌رسد، که همه ی اشتباهات زندگی، دست آخر معنی پیدا می‌کند؛ حالا هم این امید، که با خانم «داس» در تماس خواهد بود، وجودش را از همین احساس پر می‌کرد)؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  5. 5 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    I usually don't enjoy short stories that much. Collections of short stories tend to have stories that are really strong mixed together with ones that aren't and this was no exception. I do think the foreward for the kindle edition that I had contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the stories. It really helped frame a connecting thread through out each story and tied it back to the title of the collection. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed the stories as much without having the foreward highligh I usually don't enjoy short stories that much. Collections of short stories tend to have stories that are really strong mixed together with ones that aren't and this was no exception. I do think the foreward for the kindle edition that I had contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the stories. It really helped frame a connecting thread through out each story and tied it back to the title of the collection. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed the stories as much without having the foreward highlight the themes to look for or without it explaining what made the collection great. I find that often that is the case, like i definitely wouldn't have understood the significance and enjoyment of Don Quixote without the foreward. I do find short stories a lot less satisfying than novels though, they lack a certain build up and depth usually that I would get with a novel, and I tend to find the endings to them to feel much less strong. I don't think the last story, The Third and Final Continent, was that great and definetly felt like one of the weakest. I did like The Treatment of Bibi Haldar, This Blessed House, Mrs. Sen's, Interpreter of Maladies, and When Mr.Pirzada Came to Diner to name a few. I might be forgetting some. Anyway the book definitely did a good job exploring themes of cultural differences, living in diaspora, and a general malaise of life. A 4.5 stars for this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    Writing short stories is not easy. A novel is an easier literary form in a way - it allows you the space for character and plot development and gives you the space to slowly fall in love with it. Short story, on the other hand, is like literary speed dating; it only has so much time to set itself apart and make a somewhat decent expression. It's much easier for me to think of good novelists than good short story writers. Let's try - Hemingway, Poe, Bradbury, Chekhov, maybe a few more. Well, I gu Writing short stories is not easy. A novel is an easier literary form in a way - it allows you the space for character and plot development and gives you the space to slowly fall in love with it. Short story, on the other hand, is like literary speed dating; it only has so much time to set itself apart and make a somewhat decent expression. It's much easier for me to think of good novelists than good short story writers. Let's try - Hemingway, Poe, Bradbury, Chekhov, maybe a few more. Well, I guess Jhumpa Lahiri can join the exclusive club. Her novel The Namesake left me wanting more, but her short stories are very well-done. Apparently the Pulitzer people thought the same thing. If I were to describe the stories in Interpreter of Maladies in a single word, it'd be "melancholy". They are permeated by quiet, subdued, rich, and almost beautiful sadness; sorrow that paradoxically sometimes seems almost uplifting, even cathartic. The stories are slow to unfold, contemplative, intensely lyrical, nostalgic, and quietly moving. "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." Lahiri writes about India and Indian heritage, be it Indian immigrants to American university towns or people in India. The country itself, its culture, its beliefs, its traditions, and the pain of missing it are ever-present in her fiction. The Namesake dealt with exactly the same premise, and the similarities between that novel and these stories are profound. The similar theme, repeating over and over in the stories, makes you anticipate the storylines, but somehow it does not detract from enjoyment of the prose and the stories. It's not about the plot; Lahiri's storytelling hinges on the inner world of her characters, their hopes, dreams, and memories. "Whenever he is discouraged, I tell him that if I can survive on three continents, then there is no obstacle he cannot conquer. While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. 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."Overall, I enjoyed this story collection quite a bit. I chose to ration it over a few days rather than swallow them all at once, and it was a good experience. I definitely recommend this book and easily give it 4 stars. Now I'd be curious to see if and how Lahiri can expand her themes and touch on the subjects other than immigrant experience.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    “Interpreter of maladies” evokes that space in limbo, that straddling identity of immigrants trying to start a new life abroad and the cultural displacement they suffer both in their native and adopted countries. Enriched with colorful details of the Indian tradition, cuisine and celebrations, this collection of nine stories addresses the universal struggle of getting adapted to the ways of a foreign homeland without losing one’s original roots. Lahiri’s prose is fluid and simple, but it more tha “Interpreter of maladies” evokes that space in limbo, that straddling identity of immigrants trying to start a new life abroad and the cultural displacement they suffer both in their native and adopted countries. Enriched with colorful details of the Indian tradition, cuisine and celebrations, this collection of nine stories addresses the universal struggle of getting adapted to the ways of a foreign homeland without losing one’s original roots. Lahiri’s prose is fluid and simple, but it more than meets the challenge of building a bridge between two different worlds with amazing precision, delineating a tight-knitted atmosphere that serves as common ground for all the stories. Men and women who strive for balance in arranged marriages, resisting the strain of prolonged homesickness, isolation and guilt; feelings deeply rooted in the complex web of human relationships that alter the way time, place and expectations are perceived. The characters that populate Lahiri’s world live in the tense duality of being exiles, but proud to have left India to build a prosperous life in the West. Their Indian heritage acts as a catalyzer for all the events that seem to unfold in slow motion like a sequence of images that uphold the solitary confinement of the characters, leading up to an anticlimactic outcome that is muffled by the mundane quality of the troubles that haunt them. The succinct, restrained expression of Lahiri’s storytelling is gradually accumulated and acquires the poetic force of what has been hinted at but not completely articulated into words; a full world of possibilities that amounts to a summation of silent questions that don’t aspire to be answered. The future is put on hold in that familiar sensation of not knowing what is going to cross our paths next, maybe an opportunity, maybe a reversal, maybe a caressing whisper that assures us that everything is going to be alright. Or maybe all at once, making a perfect conjunction of imperfect circumstances, just like it happens more often than not in everyday life. Maybe that’s the reason why Lahiri’s stories sound so intimate and real; because they tell our life stories with all their mundane struggles without dismissing the beauty of their ordinariness.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nishat

    In this stirring collection of short stories, Jhumpa Lahiri displays the diasporic struggle of men, assailed by nightmares of home, over the dilemma of assimilating into the new world or holding on to the past culture. The author exhibits her majestic power of story telling with such grace and allure that the most wonderful thing happened to me today. I seemed to have lost the sense of 'time' while reading this splendid depiction of the plight of the homeless. This doesn't happen often. I was pu In this stirring collection of short stories, Jhumpa Lahiri displays the diasporic struggle of men, assailed by nightmares of home, over the dilemma of assimilating into the new world or holding on to the past culture. The author exhibits her majestic power of story telling with such grace and allure that the most wonderful thing happened to me today. I seemed to have lost the sense of 'time' while reading this splendid depiction of the plight of the homeless. This doesn't happen often. I was put into a trance by Lahiri's portrayal of the bereaved couple lamenting the death of their unborn child and confiding their frightful secrets in the dark during an electrical outrage. When Mr. Pirzada came to dine, I as well prayed for the conflicts to come to an end and for the rightful birth of my country. When Miranda wronged a stranger, the vermillion, promising marital bliss threatened me too. Along with the girl once gripped by a mysterious ailment, I was cured. Like the interpreter of maladies, I have dreamt of settling disputes of which I alone can understand. After all, home has beckoned us all. My thoughts have been vigorously rejigged. Lahiri's steadfast curiosity about human valor and her beautiful drawing of human spirit have left me stunned.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    There are certain things in life that bewilder and baffle us with their staggering normality. Things so simple yet unmistakably captivating, common-place yet elegant, subtle yet profound. Jumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories is one of those things. She writes with a grace and an elegance that transforms her simple stories into a delicate myriad of words and feelings. Each story transforming you into a singularity bound to its harmonious beauty. The different stories There are certain things in life that bewilder and baffle us with their staggering normality. Things so simple yet unmistakably captivating, common-place yet elegant, subtle yet profound. Jumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories is one of those things. She writes with a grace and an elegance that transforms her simple stories into a delicate myriad of words and feelings. Each story transforming you into a singularity bound to its harmonious beauty. The different stories somehow seem to be explicitly woven together to make a sari of the most beautiful kind. I felt this cumulative effect of an interconnection between all these produced feelings. This delicious melancholy that only the deepest parts of our soul can feel. “She watched his lips forming the words, at the same time she heard them under her skin, under her winter coat, so near and full of warmth that she felt herself go hot.” “It was only then, raising my water glass in his name, that I knew what it meant to miss someone who was so many miles and hours away, just as he had missed his wife and daughters for so many months.” Her stories transcend the cultural & ethnic aspect of things, any person can relate to all these experiences. For me, Interpreter of Maladies is a humanistic book that highlights the common experiences of all people, not just the Indians, while at the same time show-casing a rich culture that some people are not familiar with. She made me feel attached and connected to these characters that had few similarities with me. She made me feel the bond with these people, their experiences, their sadness, their joys, their pain. She made me understand. She made me long for home. She made me feel human. “Eventually I took a square of white chocolate out of the box, and unwrapped it, and then I did something I had never done before. I put the chocolate in my mouth, letting it soften until the last possible moment, and then as I chewed it slowly, I prayed that Mr. Pirzada’s family was safe and sound. I had never prayed for anything before, had never been taught or told to, but I decided, given the circumstances, that it was something I should do. That night when I went to the bathroom I only pretended to brush my teeth, for I feared that I would somehow rinse the prayer out as well. I wet the brush and rearranged the tube of paste to prevent my parents from asking any questions, and fell asleep with sugar on my tongue.” This book shines a light into the dark recesses of our lives. Into those places where we keep our darkest secrets, those places that even we may not be aware of. It shines a light, not a glaring white light from a bulb or a fluorescent, but rather a small light. A light from a candle that illuminates only the most necessary of things. Those things we often neglect when the bright light showcases everything around us. The weak candle-light casts a melancholy feeling only to these important things. But really, maybe that melancholy light is all we need to notice things that really matter. "In the dimness, he knew how she sat, a bit forward in her chair, ankles crossed against the lowest rung, left elbow on the table." "They each took a candle and sat down on the steps." "Something happened when the house was dark. They were able to talk to each other again." "Once it was dark and he began kissing her awkwardly on her forehead and her face, and though it was dark he closed his eyes, and he knew that she did too." "As he watched the couple, the room went dark and he spun around. Shoba turned the lights off. She came back to the table and sat down, and after a moment Shukumar joined her. They wept together, for the things they now knew." As I end, let me borrow from the book's goodreads summary. I do believe that this paragraph captures that very essence of Ms. Lahiri's beautiful craftsmanship. "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." In that single line Jhumpa Lahiri sums up a universal experience, one that applies to all who have grown up, left home, fallen in or out of love, and, above all, experienced what it means to be a foreigner, even within one's own family. "As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I really enjoyed this collection pf short stories that won the Pulitzer in 2000. Lahiri's limpid text evokes the sadness and nostalgia of being an ex-par - something I can definitely identify with. She has a wonderful word palette allowing her to create these small snapshots of life as a Bengali. My favorite was the title story about a part-time taxi driver taking an American family around to see temples near Calcutta. The driver interprets for country people at a medical clinic as he studied la I really enjoyed this collection pf short stories that won the Pulitzer in 2000. Lahiri's limpid text evokes the sadness and nostalgia of being an ex-par - something I can definitely identify with. She has a wonderful word palette allowing her to create these small snapshots of life as a Bengali. My favorite was the title story about a part-time taxi driver taking an American family around to see temples near Calcutta. The driver interprets for country people at a medical clinic as he studied languages that are no longer widely spoken. The way in which the author invokes the cultural distance between the driver and the tourists and his infatuation with the mother/wife of the family is beautiful without being sappy - and sincere enough that the woman actually confesses an infidelity to him. The saddest story I felt was that of Mrs. Sen who takes brief care of little Elliot for a short time in which he learns about frailty and loneliness (mirrored between that of his mother and that of Mrs. Sen). The last story is the most positive and demonstrates how love can evolve from arranged marriages - sometimes due to the most unlikely circumstances. This is a beautiful book (and completes my reading of all Pulitzer winners between 2000 and 2016) and makes me want to read her longer fiction such as The Namesake.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “He learned not to mind the silences.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies Some of the stories were brilliant, some were very good and only a couple were meh. This novel captures for me the right tension between foreignness and loneliness and those small wires, crumbs of connection that bridge people and cultures. Yeah, I dug it. Personally, I don't care about awards (See William H. Gass). And I really don't care that she's a woman (other than the fact that I'm trying to read more women this “He learned not to mind the silences.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies Some of the stories were brilliant, some were very good and only a couple were meh. This novel captures for me the right tension between foreignness and loneliness and those small wires, crumbs of connection that bridge people and cultures. Yeah, I dug it. Personally, I don't care about awards (See William H. Gass). And I really don't care that she's a woman (other than the fact that I'm trying to read more women this year) or that she's Indian American (although both are a significant part of this collection). I don't believe she was subsidized for either being a woman or being Indian, of if she was I really don't care. Everybody is subsidized by something. White men get the white men subsidy. The rich get the rich subsidy. The educated get the educated subsidy. The poor and broken get the helluva life story subsidy. If I could sum it up, I'd guess that this book probably won the writer lottery: the right good book gets published at the perfect momemnt. The stories themselves gave me the same temperate, nuanced, soft vibe I get when I read Kazuo Ishiguro or Julian Barnes. So, at least in my mind, she fits/resonnates more into/with the: über-educated, upper-middle, British/East Coast US, 'outsider now inside' club(s) more than the female writer or even Indian American clubs. But then again, I could be wrong. Anyway, I don't have to say that this was her first published book and she still ended up writing (from what I've heard) solid, serious fiction. So that. Brilliant stories: A Temporary Matter Interpreter of Maladies Mrs Sen's This Blessed House Good stories: When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine Sexy The Third and Final Continent Meh stories: A Real Durwan The Treatment of Bibi Haldar

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    It is interesting to reflect on the fact that humans are so mismatched to the lives and people they choose for themselves! A collection of short stories, navigating the intricate web of cultural clashes in India, UK and USA, moving back and forth in history, from the trauma of the Partition to the moon landing and beyond that, circling around families for twenty pages just to let go of them when the reader thinks the narrative starts to create a pattern of sense, this is a wonderful reading expe It is interesting to reflect on the fact that humans are so mismatched to the lives and people they choose for themselves! A collection of short stories, navigating the intricate web of cultural clashes in India, UK and USA, moving back and forth in history, from the trauma of the Partition to the moon landing and beyond that, circling around families for twenty pages just to let go of them when the reader thinks the narrative starts to create a pattern of sense, this is a wonderful reading experience! And bizarrely, the loosely connected short stories seem to match well in their description of misfits. Why do we live with people we don't feel belong to us, with people who try to suppress what we value as treasures rather than celebrating with us? Why is a close relationship so often similar to an act of slow suffocation? Can we blame it on the custom of arranged marriages, which appear in some of the stories? Hardly, for the marriages that were founded on physical attraction generate the same issues. Can we blame it on the institution of marriage itself? Hardly, for the role of mistress is just as difficult to bear. Can we make it a gender issue? Hardly, for husbands are not exempt from the suffocation, even though they may have slightly more freedom of movement. Can we blame it on a specific culture? Hardly, for humans are humans whether they live in deepest poverty in Calcutta or in brilliant luxury in a university town in New England. Funnily, the character who seemed to develop the most strength and inner happiness in the end was the sick young woman in India who was rejected by everyone, even her family, and who found herself pregnant and forced to raise a child on her own in "disgrace". She was "cured". Cured of her seizures, cured of the pressure to adapt to the expectations of others. Cured of trying to be matched, she formed her own pattern. Brilliant stories, wonderfully human!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    Amazing, extraordinary - there aren't enough superlatives for this one! The first story, A Temporary Matter tells of a young married couple who must endure a one hour power outage for five consecutive nights. They determine that in the darkness they will tell each other something they've never before told one another. In just a few pages Lahiri exposes the secret feelings of these individuals. And then she ends the story in a completely unexpected way. Rarely will I gasp while reading, though she Amazing, extraordinary - there aren't enough superlatives for this one! The first story, A Temporary Matter tells of a young married couple who must endure a one hour power outage for five consecutive nights. They determine that in the darkness they will tell each other something they've never before told one another. In just a few pages Lahiri exposes the secret feelings of these individuals. And then she ends the story in a completely unexpected way. Rarely will I gasp while reading, though shedding tears is commonplace. I did both. Lahiri also has a way of seeing and describing ordinary objects in a new and different way - new to me anyway. In a later story, this sentence I read and reread: The beach was barren and dull to play on alone; the only neighbors who stayed on past Labor Day, a young married couple, had no children, and Eliot no longer found it interesting to gather broken mussel shells in his bucket, or to stroke the seaweed, strewn like strips of emerald lasagna on the sand. Emerald lasagna is such a perfect description. Never again will I see seaweed without thinking of this story of Eliot and Mrs. Sen, who wouldn't learn to drive, who chopped vegetables with her special knife from "home" and who wanted whole fish to cook. Each of the nine stories in Interpreter of Maladies shares people in slightly different situations. Lahiri's characters are ordinary people made extraordinary. They lead simple lives, but see life as special. She makes it special for me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Greta G

    Someone who hasn’t heard about Jhumpa Lahiri’s award winning collection of short stories yet, hasn’t been paying attention. This is the 9.178th review on the book, and I’m the 140.434th Goodreads member to rate it. My review will probably land somewhere on the 30th spot. Not at all because it’s good, but because I was lucky to have found supportive friends, who understand how important it is for a person to get a little attention and to be able to share their experiences with others. We understa Someone who hasn’t heard about Jhumpa Lahiri’s award winning collection of short stories yet, hasn’t been paying attention. This is the 9.178th review on the book, and I’m the 140.434th Goodreads member to rate it. My review will probably land somewhere on the 30th spot. Not at all because it’s good, but because I was lucky to have found supportive friends, who understand how important it is for a person to get a little attention and to be able to share their experiences with others. We understand each other; reading is a solitary occupation and being able to share that in a group of like-minded people makes it a less solitary experience. And that’s exactly what these stories are about; the sense of belonging. Feeling that you belong is as important as the need for food, or sleep, or even breathing. It gives value to your life ; finding a supportive community, or having supportive friends, family or neighbors, and being able to be a supportive member of such a community yourself, helps you to find meaning in your life. The main characters in these stories, all of Indian origin, and most of them migrants in America, struggle with this sense of belonging. The melancholic stories deal with love and loss, marriage and relationships, bonding and fitting in with others, receiving some attention and being valued. Whether you’re rich or poor, married or single, migrant or nonmigrant, sick or healthy, introvert or extrovert, male or female; we all crave belongingness. Jhumpa Lahiri’s emotional stories convey this need brilliantly and won’t leave you unaffected. So if you push that ‘like’ button, it means much more to me than a position among the 9.179 reviews on this book. In fact, that position is totally irrelevant. What it really means to me is that you’re giving me a real sense of belonging to this community of readers, and a sense of being valued. And I’m immensely grateful to each one of you for that. Belonging is not competing for a ranking, but nevertheless for many people it’s a daily fight. And this book reminded me of the importance of belonging.

  15. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    This collection won the Pen/Hemingway Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and— most impressively—the New Yorker Debut of the Year. When a book receives this amount of awards, it’s a) lazy—why give two prestigious prizes to the SAME book? b) going to give the reader unrealistic expectations and c) a conspiracy of critics. This collection arrived at a time when an Indian writer hadn’t been given a Pulitzer or important award, and the committee wanted to expand its reach outside middle-class whit This collection won the Pen/Hemingway Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and— most impressively—the New Yorker Debut of the Year. When a book receives this amount of awards, it’s a) lazy—why give two prestigious prizes to the SAME book? b) going to give the reader unrealistic expectations and c) a conspiracy of critics. This collection arrived at a time when an Indian writer hadn’t been given a Pulitzer or important award, and the committee wanted to expand its reach outside middle-class white male Americans. The stories, mercifully, still contain American settings, but have enough watered down Indianness in them to appeal to a mass market, and enough simple sentiment and sentence structure to universalize love loss sadness relationships and so on. Also, Jhumpia is a woman, and a woman hadn’t won in a while. The stories in this collection are fine but all utilise the same straightforward, overly descriptive, consciously “traditional” narrative voice, one that doesn’t take risks or explore interesting forms or ideas, falling back on saccharine or poetic tropes to go for the heartstrings and not the intellect, using human dramas in far-off homelands to manipulate the immigrant reader rather than new or novel techniques. This is not to say she isn’t a talented writer. Only I feel violently this mode of writing is beating a middlebrow, Oprah-shaped drum, and doesn’t do much except warm a heart or state the obvious.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kavitha

    Once again, a very depressing storyline from yet another author of Indian origin. Remember! I am not being parochial here, I am Indian myself. Being very familiar with Indian cinematography and screenplays, I know that Indians are prone to over emphasizing on family sentiments and emotions. But what I fail to understand is how authors based out of other countries too have the same idea of applying sentiments in a very negative sense to their stories. It also beats me how this won the Pulitzer, j Once again, a very depressing storyline from yet another author of Indian origin. Remember! I am not being parochial here, I am Indian myself. Being very familiar with Indian cinematography and screenplays, I know that Indians are prone to over emphasizing on family sentiments and emotions. But what I fail to understand is how authors based out of other countries too have the same idea of applying sentiments in a very negative sense to their stories. It also beats me how this won the Pulitzer, just the same way it does to think that God of Small Things won the Booker! But to Lahiri's credit, her prose is very simplistic and is a pleasure to read, contrary to Roy's. Also, Lahiri's vivid descriptions of life of immigrants in the US is very realistic. But again, I am not sure if I should be giving her too much credit in this regard. She is based out of US and she knows the nuances of life in US (the peanut butter and jelly combination etc.). So, that probably never involved too much research. Real credit goes to authors who write about lifestyles that they are totally unfamiliar with.Take Yann Martel (Yes!He is one of my favorite authors!) for example, his description of life in India in his award winning book, Life Of Pi, is commendable. Unfamiliar with India as he was, he sure did his homework before he wrote the book. I am currently reading The Namesake by Lahiri to see if I can change my opinion on her writings. After all, reading one book isn't always enough to rate an author who has worked so hard on writing full fledged books!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Olivier Delaye

    Another reread, another winner. This is Jhumpa Lahiri’s first published work, one for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, and deservedly so. Indeed, it takes a talented writer to make the normality of everyday life appealing (at least to me), and in this endeavor Lahiri passes with flying colors. As you may already know, Interpreter of Maladies is not a novel but a collection of 9 short stories, which I will now review in turn, albeit briefly. A TEMPORARY MATTER is about an Indian-Ameri Another reread, another winner. This is Jhumpa Lahiri’s first published work, one for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, and deservedly so. Indeed, it takes a talented writer to make the normality of everyday life appealing (at least to me), and in this endeavor Lahiri passes with flying colors. As you may already know, Interpreter of Maladies is not a novel but a collection of 9 short stories, which I will now review in turn, albeit briefly. A TEMPORARY MATTER is about an Indian-American couple who’s on the skids due to the stillbirth of their first child. They then take the opportunity of several power outages to try and rekindle their relationship. While the writing is utterly delicious––descriptive yet pithy, clever yet reader-friendly––I did not really like this story because of its bittersweet ending. I know, call me schmaltzy! WHEN MR. PIRZADA CAME TO DINE is about the war between East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and India, but viewed miles and miles away in America through the eyes of an Indian-American family and their Pakistani friend (the eponymous Mr. Pirzada). It’s also a reflective (and informative) work on cultural differences in the US, and all in all, I found it to be quite a satisfying read. INTERPRETER OF MALADIES is about an Indian-American family visiting famous sights in India with their Indian guide. But beyond sightseeing, it’s first and foremost a story about dissatisfaction, unfaithfulness, repressed attraction, confession and interpretation of said feelings through the introspective lens of cultural differences. It is in my opinion the strongest story in this collection. A REAL DURWAN: I found this story about an old woman who is ill-treated by the residents of the building she works in as a sweeper to be the weakest of the lot. Sure, Lahiri masterfully portrays how mean people can be… but then again there’s nothing new here. Unfortunately. SEXY explores the mind of a Caucasian woman dating a married Indian man and what it means for her to be his mistress. Again, there’s a lot of repressed feelings and introspection going on here, and if you’re hoping for a sweet little ending all tied up with a lovely bow… well, you'll be disappointed. MRS. SEN’S is my favorite story of the collection. It’s about an Indian-American woman (Mrs. Sen) who takes care of a young boy (Eliot) during the day when his mother is at work. The writing is perfect, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, always polished like a newly minted penny, subtly tackling the cultural differences that exist between “mainstream Americans” and “not-quite-fully-assimilated” Indian-Americans––or should I say, Indian-Americans refusing to assimilate, as it is very much the case here with Mrs. Sen. Lahiri conveys so much in this story without ever stating it on the page that the word “telepathy” comes to mind. It’s almost “Hemingway-esque” in its execution. Another proof of how talented a writer she is. THIS BLESSED HOUSE is about a newly married Indian-American couple who keep discovering catholic paraphernalia in the house they just bought and moved in. The husband isn’t sure about his feelings for his wife, who’s as ingénue and naïve as a child. Good but not great. The prose, however, is perfect. THE TREATMENT OF BIBI HALDAR deals with an Indian girl in India whose “strange disease” (I take it to be epilepsy, although it’s never stated as such in the text) has rendered her kind of antisocial and unfit to marry, which is a shame as the treatment of her disease, according to doctors, consists in her getting married (?!). I really liked this one, and for once, I find the ending satisfactory, if not at all what I expected. It also gives a nice (and sad) insight into Indian marital traditions, superstitions and caste-related beliefs that, apparently, are still very much relevant nowadays in India. THE THIRD AND FINAL CONTINENT tells the story of an Indian immigrant to America. Narrated in the first person, it concludes the collection nicely. OLIVIER DELAYE Author of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series

  18. 4 out of 5

    Krys

    By and large I found this collection overrated. Which is not to say that I didn't find some of the stories fantastic, the title story for example, as well as the 2nd story in the book. And nothing was really bad here, but seldom did any of these stories strike me as anything as phenomenal as Ms. Lahiri's novel The Namesake. The collection can be sorted into two main types of stories, those in the East, and those in the West. In both cases, what separates most of these stories from the tale of The By and large I found this collection overrated. Which is not to say that I didn't find some of the stories fantastic, the title story for example, as well as the 2nd story in the book. And nothing was really bad here, but seldom did any of these stories strike me as anything as phenomenal as Ms. Lahiri's novel The Namesake. The collection can be sorted into two main types of stories, those in the East, and those in the West. In both cases, what separates most of these stories from the tale of The Namesake is that they simply reproduce all the stereotypes and tropes of Indian-Bengali culture, whereas the novel actually took the time to explore the realities of such cultural norms. And maybe The Namesake could take that time BECAUSE it was a novel. But for a book to receive as much praise as Interpreter of Maladies, I was hoping for similar insights, merely compressed and distilled into short stories, but no such luck. Instead I found most of the stories repeating the same-old learning to love (or not love) the person with whom your marriage has been arranged (the American stories) and a couple commentaries about the persistence of the caste system (the Bengali stories). The characters do not challenge the culture (which I admit is a very Western expectation), but they didn't even add any nuances to the day-to-day of arranged marriage. Lahiri is a good writer, as a few of these stories and her novel indicate. But high expectations can only hinder you with this collection. Read The Namesake instead, and watch it succeed despite the dominance of exposition over scene!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    Like her novel The Namesake, Lahiri's collection of short stories deals mainly with the experience of Indian immigrants in America. They often deal with a more specific experience: a young married couple moves to America shortly after being married so the husband can work at a university, and they have to navigate the new worlds of their marriage and the United States simultaneously. Being an Indian immigrant, or being the child of Indian immigrants, in America is clearly a subject close to Lahi Like her novel The Namesake, Lahiri's collection of short stories deals mainly with the experience of Indian immigrants in America. They often deal with a more specific experience: a young married couple moves to America shortly after being married so the husband can work at a university, and they have to navigate the new worlds of their marriage and the United States simultaneously. Being an Indian immigrant, or being the child of Indian immigrants, in America is clearly a subject close to Lahiri's heart, and in the hands of a less skilled author, her stories about this experience would become repetitive. But Jhumpa Lahiri is a very, very skilled author, and each story in this collection looked at the same subject from a different perspective. This is multiple observations on a similar idea, and every one is beautiful and leaves you feeling like you've just had a really good sob: emptied-out, sad, but somehow fulfilled at the same time. The writing is straightforward, and beautiful in its simplicity. In The Namesake, I was frequently irritated by her attempts at casual banter between characters. Luckily, there's none of that here - Lahiri rarely has her characters speak, preferring introspection instead. The few conversations that do occur don't attempt any witty banter, preferring to go right ahead and drown you in subtle tragedy, like this exchange from "Mrs. Sen's" (it's told from the perspective of Eliot, an eleven-year-old who spends every afternoon at the house of his Indian babysitter, and it was my favorite in the collection: "Mrs. Sen took the aerogram from India out of her purse and studied the front and back. She unfolded it and read it to herself, sighing every now and then. When she had finished she gazed for some time at the swimmers. 'My sister has had a baby girl. By the time I see her, depending if Mr. Sen gets his tenure, she will be three years old. Her own aunt will be a stranger. If we sit side by side on a train she will not know my face.' She put away the letter, then placed a hand on Eliot's head. 'Do you miss your mother, Eliot, these afternoons with me?' The thought had never occurred to him. 'You must miss her. When I think of you, only a boy, separated from your mother for so much of the day, I am ashamed.' 'I see her at night.' 'When I was your age I was without knowing that one day I would be so far. You are wiser than that, Eliot. You already taste the way things must be.'" Also, I love reading Lahiri when she writes about cooking. In fact, I want her to get her own cooking show, just so I can have more stuff like this: "When friends dropped by, Shoba would throw together meals that appeared to have taken half a day to prepare, from things she had frozen and bottled, not cheap things in tins but peppers she had marinated herself with rosemary, and chutneys that she cooked on Sundays, stirring boiling pots of tomatoes and prunes. ...Shukumar had been going through their supplies steadily, preparing meals for the two of them, measuring out cupfuls of rice, defrosting bags of meat day after day. He combed through her cookbooks every afternoon, following her penciled instructions to use two teaspoons of ground coriander seeds instead of one, or red lentils instead of yellow. Each of the recipes was dated, telling the first time they had eaten the dish together. April 2, cauliflower with fennel. January 14, chicken with almonds and sultanas. He had no memory of eating those meals, and yet there they were, recorded in her neat proofreader's hand."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Atkinson

    4.5 stars Several months later, yaaayy I finally picked this book up and finished it!! We read 3 of these short stories last semester in my Indian/African literature class, and since this entire collection won the Pulitzer, I just wanted to go ahead and finish the entire thing. I enjoyed the ones we read for class, and I continued to love the rest of them! Lahiri has an amazing writing style with such great references to immigration and relationships and they're stories that you can reread over a 4.5 stars Several months later, yaaayy I finally picked this book up and finished it!! We read 3 of these short stories last semester in my Indian/African literature class, and since this entire collection won the Pulitzer, I just wanted to go ahead and finish the entire thing. I enjoyed the ones we read for class, and I continued to love the rest of them! Lahiri has an amazing writing style with such great references to immigration and relationships and they're stories that you can reread over and over and locate something new in. I've heard her other short story collection is good, but her novel is not as amazing, but I definitely have my eye on her!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A beautiful collection of stories. The way Jhumpa Lahiri brings the ordinariness of life alive through her words. I simply loved this book. One I’ll treasure by my bedside table to reread many times over.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Grosbety

    4.5 stars ☆ This is quite the moving, colorfully woven collection of short stories…now on to my further thoughts on specific stories that settled within me with a singing spirit of heart and frank courage of soul amidst Jhumpa Lahiri's explorations into the global experience of people: “A Temporary Matter”: The darkness opens up an intimacy, whether negative or positive reveals itself more clearly as the story goes on, between this husband and wife who are falling out of love, as they do nothing 4.5 stars ☆ This is quite the moving, colorfully woven collection of short stories…now on to my further thoughts on specific stories that settled within me with a singing spirit of heart and frank courage of soul amidst Jhumpa Lahiri's explorations into the global experience of people: “A Temporary Matter”: The darkness opens up an intimacy, whether negative or positive reveals itself more clearly as the story goes on, between this husband and wife who are falling out of love, as they do nothing but occupy space together. The negative space that sits itself between them painting a poignant picture of what has been lost to the stillness of words unsaid and can’t cleanse itself any further from the ways it has been singed beyond recognition. As distance worms its way further and further between them they can’t help but fall further and further out of rhythm with the other, habits, zapped of energy, replacing what was once love. Their idiosyncrasies which once molded together with the ease of clay causing each other now a bitter torment. The darkness in fact has become a presence of its own in their collapsing relationship that has begun to recede with the quickness of a tide, rushing to be found by the certainty of shore again. Since the time power has gone out in their building, a proceeding powerlessness has haplessly settled itself over their relationship that’s coated in a melancholia and nostalgia for times past, a time of selves caressed by a calming closeness and elevating warmness. The wife then begins a game with her husband, whether to rekindle a connection or lead up to a truth she needs the courage to reveal, only time will decide. For in life, things can turn temporary in a shattering reversal, even if they were once promised to be bounded to forever. “Interpreter of Maladies”: A family is led around by a tour guide who not only interprets the landscape and local culture, but also interprets people’s physical ailments. A new family he comes into contact with to lead around strikes his interest in particular and begins to impact his sense of self/temporarily fill a void in him that has been left empty and loveless for as long as his heart, mind, and body can remember. He especially finds this void filled by the mother, Mrs. Das, after she proclaims that his profession as an interpreter of maladies is romantic. As soon as Mr. Kapasi learns from Mrs. Das that she considers his profession romantic, something within him pivotally shifts and he feels seen for the first time in a while, which provokes a profound stirring of desire in him, not only for her, but for things and emotions lost, voided with the elapsing of a time bygone that he can never get back. And with this stirring of profound, deepening desire and reawakening of his sense of purpose he, in turn, begins to project his more romantic notions of Mrs. Das onto her, as her one comment has cemented his existence in something more verifiably tangible, validating that his presence is felt and needed. Mrs. Das unwittingly becomes Mr. Kapasi’s own interpreter as she unpacks his profession and realizes her own sense of who he is and can be as a man. Mr. Kapasi is drawn deeper and deeper into feeling an imagined subject of romantic attraction just because his love language is someone verbally appreciating him and acknowledging what he does, like Mrs. Das has, even though her actual meaning and intention is in fact never romantic. People read and interpret things how they need to, however, in order to feel some sort of comforting antidote to their lingering, acute loneliness that hinders their ability to feel anything else. This short story was quite impactful in how it explored the different worlds and burdens people carry, the way we live and how we idealistically romanticize, even inventing our own subtext, and, in culmination, ultimately revealed that our language of feeling pain is more universally understood as others are able to interpret our pain and help us in crisis, even if unwittingly. Though the voluminous weight and influence of a malady can’t be fully remedied, it can be lessened and lightened, but in this case Mrs. Das was looking for something Mr. Kapasi couldn’t give her, a magical cure-all, which reflects that sometimes what we want isn’t what we need or what’s obtainable in our current condition. We, like Mrs. Das, must work through our own messiness and deepness of feeling, torment over past actions, in order to get somewhere instead of short-cutting our way there. In any case, it also comes back to and derives from our own limits in being able to extract truths from each other’s endlessly complex wholes. “Sexy”: Although I had mixed feeling about parts of this story, it still stuck out to me in distinctive ways. In ways that I wanted to undress as the characters not only physically but also metaphorically undress each other in the story. What I most enjoyed about “Sexy” is getting to the bottom of what sexy really means in the first place, almost a sweet, sensually pleasing nothing you tell someone you don’t know, which can startle them into thinking you’re closer than you are and understand each other more than you do. It can fill you with palpable playfulness, rising hope, and delicate, deepening desire, that will imminently come to a pained standstill, especially in this instance since the man is wrongfully betraying the someone that he has already given his word and heart to. This story also looks into what it can mean to fall in love before you really know someone more intimately, like what it is to wake up and live with them day to day, and without that additional knowledge you can’t fully interpret them: as they remain an art piece with elaborately different, more elusive meanings. Which brings one of the themes of this piece full-circle: in different places one thing can have cultural significance and meaning and in another part of the world it does not. “The Third and Final Continent”: This was such a poignantly moving tale of burgeoning care and love between a new husband and wife, unexpected, intergenerational connections born, and stepping into a new culture so vividly different from your own. A man comes to America to work and before his new wife arrives to live with him from India he stays in an apartment with an elderly woman, Mrs. Croft, who influences him greatly in the small amount of time that they know each other. They are both there for each other in ways that they may need it most and imprint on each other a subtle appreciation for the other’s cultural context and background. And with the everlasting power of his connection with Mrs. Croft, the man also comes to recognize the ways in which he can embrace the journey of getting to know his wife and ultimately see her through new eyes and an accompanying changed perspective for what she has been through. He recognizes in her some similar challenging feelings that he himself has felt and I think that that’s a beautiful moment of empathetic recognition that can be built upon and influence the course of his and his wife’s relationship. This story left me with a rich appreciation for the feelings that magically soar between us, our capacity to be good and remember others, and what can be the rivetingly powerful impact of the moments we live and who we share them with.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    In her multi-award-winning debut, Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri gives us nine elegantly crafted, even-paced short stories - this is peak traditional storytelling, well done, but unbelievably tame. The characters we meet are mostly caught between two worlds, namely India and the US, and affected by Indian history and politics. Many of them are interesting or even fascinating, but the stories they live through have left me feeling detached far too often: Nothing here will shock or surprise In her multi-award-winning debut, Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri gives us nine elegantly crafted, even-paced short stories - this is peak traditional storytelling, well done, but unbelievably tame. The characters we meet are mostly caught between two worlds, namely India and the US, and affected by Indian history and politics. Many of them are interesting or even fascinating, but the stories they live through have left me feeling detached far too often: Nothing here will shock or surprise the reader, or even - God forbid - disturb, irritate or agitate audiences. How can something that plays on such a high level be so bland? The core themes of the stories are universal: Marital troubles, alienation, the ghosts of the past, etc., and there is no doubt that depicting the lives of Indian-Americans is a merit in itself. It would also be hard to point at serious narrative flaws, but I just expect more intensity and narrative force - this is way too safe, especially considering that the author is trying to convey a world of uncertainty.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tamoghna Biswas

    "I know my achievement is quite ordinary, 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." Though in no way relevant to me, I feel this quote too deeply. This one is, undoubtedly one of the author’s most prominent works, a "I know my achievement is quite ordinary, 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." Though in no way relevant to me, I feel this quote too deeply. This one is, undoubtedly one of the author’s most prominent works, and for some reasons the only one I have managed to read. Introductory one, that’s probably why. And the Pulitzer is also an additional factor. It is a collection of nine not-so-short stories, which actually vary in their emotional and love quotients. The first one, A Temporary Matter is quite intuitively placed in that position, as it is bound to grab your total attention and whisper in your ears that this collection isn’t overhyped. Pretty much that’s the reason you will finish this book in one sitting, as though it isn’t extremely thin, but you can pretty much read this sort of stories at any time. So simply told, you will definitely feel like you are conversing with the person sitting next to you.(Not always, though). The second one has a shift in tone of narrative. When Mr. Pirzada came to dine is definitely too-well-told from the perspective of a young girl. The third one, Interpreter of Maladies is by far the most memorable of the lot, told in third person where the protagonist has the unique combined profession of hired- driving and playing an interpreter to a local doctor. Quite rightfully it deserves to be the title of the book itself. A long after that comes the story Sexy , not-unique-yet-unique perspective of an extra-marital affair. Actually, two affairs of two couples, where one tries to learn from the other, fails at first, and then wants to rectify her own faults. The rest of the stories, though all good in their own respects, I won’t discuss them here. You must definitely read yourselves to find out. All these stories do defy the usual standards or, rather the definition of good short stories, like having twists and turns, ambiguous or open endings, or some morals to teach. For good, actually. We don’t have relationships or any sort of emotional attachments just to be taught something. Similarly, not overdependent on emotions. And in real life one hardly does expect too many twists. However, this is a book to be read when your brain is baffled from serious readings. And also, of the nine stories, only a few can leave a mark on your mind, say a week after reading. And all of them don’t deserve equal attention, and that keeps the book a little from becoming a truly good book. Basically, you shouldn’t read this going to expect anything new to happen. The book proved quite nostalgic to me, however. It has the flair of a Bengali’s writing in a foreign tongue in an exactly identical tone as her mother tongue. My only suggestion to whoever picks this one up will be to read at bedtime. They won’t definitely overexert you. “He watched as it rose, carried higher and higher by the breeze, into the trees where the monkeys now sat, solemnly observing the scene below.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    A pleasant collection of short stories. My favorites are the following two: (1) 'A Real Darwan', something I could relate to the social structure in Calcutta, after a touristic trip I made there a few years ago (2) 'Sexy', a touching story of the painful effects of parental infidelity on a little boy, coming of age.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    The stories in this collection succeed in doing what good short stories should: they illuminate the little moments, the mundane traumas, the controlled anguishes that blink unspoken and unacknowledged into the everyday. I do not think that Lahiri is an exceptional crafter of prose, but she does have a talent for penetrating the human spirit. There is a closeness and vulnerability to her characters that is genuine. The stories reveal how culture and upbringing can be fulfilling and liberating, ye The stories in this collection succeed in doing what good short stories should: they illuminate the little moments, the mundane traumas, the controlled anguishes that blink unspoken and unacknowledged into the everyday. I do not think that Lahiri is an exceptional crafter of prose, but she does have a talent for penetrating the human spirit. There is a closeness and vulnerability to her characters that is genuine. The stories reveal how culture and upbringing can be fulfilling and liberating, yet also deeply stifling and limiting. The need to belong is powerful, but so is the desire to be accepted and to fit in. The stories centre around Indians living abroad, but their experiences are shared human experiences: separation, loss, infidelity, guilt, ostracisation, and the breakdown of relationships. With subjects like these, it's no wonder that these stories are so powerful, poignant and filled with sadness.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    If you are a lover of the short story, you will hug this book. It is a perfect rendition of the form, with characters who are driven by osmosis. No wonder it won the Pulitzer. There are a lot of things Lahiri does so well that I enjoyed. Things that made me stay with this collection, finishing it in one day. Did she use her stories to inform of the Indian Diaspora, one wonders? Oh no, not fiction writers, they are not supposed to write with some agenda...blah blah. Well if she didn't mean to be If you are a lover of the short story, you will hug this book. It is a perfect rendition of the form, with characters who are driven by osmosis. No wonder it won the Pulitzer. There are a lot of things Lahiri does so well that I enjoyed. Things that made me stay with this collection, finishing it in one day. Did she use her stories to inform of the Indian Diaspora, one wonders? Oh no, not fiction writers, they are not supposed to write with some agenda...blah blah. Well if she didn't mean to be so translucent, she surely ended up being just that. And I loved it. The India-Pakistan Partition, Indian immigrant struggles, religion, arranged marriages, economically and socially dependent wives, were all topics explored. Well hello thematic appeal, why do all collections not abide by you? The writing is unadorned: terse prose with sporadic use of metaphors. You don't get a weather-man-like one-page description that makes you want to scream, stoppp, just tell me the story already. You get a stark sentence: "the rain had stopped and now the sour smell that rises from wet mango leaves was hanging low over the alley." The characters don't just have green cards, they have "sixth preference" green cards. They don't just smoke cigarettes, they "smoke Rothmans." They don't just wear shoes, they wear, "black-patent leather mules with heels like golf tees, open toes, and slightly soiled silk labels on the instep where her soles had rested." They don't just experience windy days, they experience a "wind so strong that they had to walk backward." Mrs. Sen didn't just clean fish. She "stroked the tails, prodded the bellies, pried apart the gutted flesh. With a pair of scissors, she clipped the fins. She tucked a finger under the gills, a red so bright they made her vermillion seem pale" (now if you've ever cleaned and gutted fish before, you're smiling slightly at this imagery). Every word is carefully placed, each character propelled by a journey. I loved them all but my favorites were: A Real Durwan- I really liked the mystery of Boori Ma, the woman who always told people about what she had lost after she was deported to Calcutta. Was she really a riches-to-rags woman or a simple stairwell sweeper? Tell me more, please. Mrs. Sen's--a homesick woman with an aloof husband, takes cares of a young boy with an aloof mother. When Mr. Pirzada Came To Dine-loved the historical context given through dialogue. "Mr. Picada is no longer considered Indian," my father announced, brushing salt from the cashews out of his trim black beard. Not since Partition. Our country was divided. 1947." When I said I thought that was the date of India's independence from Britain, my father said, "That too. One moment we were free and then we were sliced up, " he explained, drawing an X with his finger on the countertop, "like a pie. Hindus here, Muslims there. Dacca no longer belongs to us."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barbara H

    My library presented me with a tattered, yellowing copy of this book. Its shoddy state soon became irrelevant as I quickly became immersed in this collection of stories. Jhumpa Lahiri's style is elegant, evocative and sweet. Her narratives create an aura of reality and presence for the reader. In a blurb on the back cover, another of my highly regarded authors,Amy Tan, has stated. "Jhumpa Lahiri is the kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person you see and say, 'Read this'-" It see My library presented me with a tattered, yellowing copy of this book. Its shoddy state soon became irrelevant as I quickly became immersed in this collection of stories. Jhumpa Lahiri's style is elegant, evocative and sweet. Her narratives create an aura of reality and presence for the reader. In a blurb on the back cover, another of my highly regarded authors,Amy Tan, has stated. "Jhumpa Lahiri is the kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person you see and say, 'Read this'-" It seems fitting to quote her here, because both skillfully recount the immigrant and foreign experiences , here or in their native countries. Lahiri has presented her characters so astutely and with such clarity, that it seems possible to envision individuals as they encounter each event. I felt an attachment and an allure to the people and wished to learn and behold more. It is difficult to select a favorite in this collection. In the title story, Interpreter of Maladies , Mr. Das was a compelling figure. He had gained this title in his town in India, where he was employed by a physician translating Gujarati to the doctor in attendance. Without his expertise, these patients would be unable to find appropriate assistance or care for their problems. At other times, Mr. Das was a tour guide. During one trip with an American family, he became unrealistically enamored with the wife. It was interesting to observe how this situation was resolved. The realism and infeasibility of another of life's situations was revealed in Sexy . Miranda, the main character who is an American, has become involved in an affair with a married Indian man. Her emotional state is sensitively chronicled throughout. As in her later book, Unaccustomed Earth , Lahiri has involved our gustatory senses with her many vivd descriptions of food, either simply as unusual snacks, bowls of cereal, or lavish spreads for families and/or guests. There does not appear to be an area where she was unable to capture and sustain interest in her eloquent voice. I must issue my gratitude to my Goodreads Friends who urged me to read this fine book by this distinguished author!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Apoorva

    'Interpreter of Maladies' is a debut novel by the author Jhumpa Lahiri that won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s a collection of 9 short stories based on the experiences of Indian immigrants; some stories are set in India while others, abroad. The stories cover a wide range of themes ranging from marriage, family, cultural identity, social class, past, dreams, and hopes about the future, communication etc. The language is simple, yet subtle. The emotions are not directly expressed but they are meant to be 'Interpreter of Maladies' is a debut novel by the author Jhumpa Lahiri that won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s a collection of 9 short stories based on the experiences of Indian immigrants; some stories are set in India while others, abroad. The stories cover a wide range of themes ranging from marriage, family, cultural identity, social class, past, dreams, and hopes about the future, communication etc. The language is simple, yet subtle. The emotions are not directly expressed but they are meant to be felt and interpreted from the writing itself. The stories possess a certain Indian-ness as we get a glimpse of Indian culture. What I loved about this book is that the characters are flawed and their emotions and experiences are portrayed very realistically. Each story is unique and revolves around the life of ordinary people. The writing transcends the boundary of culture to portray universal emotions of love, loss, hope which are relatable. While I loved some of the stories, others, I did not care for much. At certain times, it was difficult for me to get emotionally invested in the characters and their story. I felt the stories start off great and have a nice build-up but they end abruptly, failing to reach that emotional crescendo I wanted. As a result, I was left disappointed. Nonetheless, I enjoyed some of the stories which include: The first story called ‘The temporary matter’ which is about a married couple struggling to deal with a tragic loss. It’s a beautiful story about coming to terms with the loss and moving on. ‘The Real Durwan’ is about Boori Ma, a gatekeeper, who lives in, and works as the caretaker of a middle-class apartment. This story gives a sad and accurate depiction of the class difference in India. ‘The Treatment of Bibi Haldar’ depicts the sad life of Bibi Haldar suffering from a mysterious illness who believes she’ll be cured by a man’s love. This story depicts the support and importance of community life. ‘The Third and Final Continent’ in which the narrator who’s an immigrant reminisce about the past and ponders upon the life he has created. Overall, it’s a nice collection of short stories. The writing felt flat at times but some stories are very good. I’d love to give The Namesake a try and see if I’m wrong. This turned out to be a good read and now, I'm willing to read some good Indian literature.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    I have this fear that used bookstores will cease to exist in the near future. They exist in spite of reality now. What on earth could be the return on investment (ROI) of a used bookstore? As any connoisseur of used books will tell you, a used book has a much different smell than a new book. Indeed, used books have a variety of smells depending on how old and what kind of paper they are printed on. Used book stores offer the opportunity to find things--not just books, but the marginal notes of o I have this fear that used bookstores will cease to exist in the near future. They exist in spite of reality now. What on earth could be the return on investment (ROI) of a used bookstore? As any connoisseur of used books will tell you, a used book has a much different smell than a new book. Indeed, used books have a variety of smells depending on how old and what kind of paper they are printed on. Used book stores offer the opportunity to find things--not just books, but the marginal notes of other readers. Used books have history, character. In the future, we'll still have libraries, but how will we get a book for a dollar we can take into the bath with us? Where will we get books for two dollars we can leave on planes and buses for others to find? As a library book, I would never have picked up Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies for the second time. It doesn't even crack my top 50 books I have to read in the next year and a half. But as a book found in a Japanese use book store for 115 yen (about 1 US dollar), now I could reread the stories and write my own marginal notes. This book won't be a sentimental object; instead, it will be the object of my marginal notes. Who knows how many pencil marks the triumph of "A Temporary Matter" will get? Who knows how many pencil marks and comments the less-than-triumphant "Sexy" will get? Who knows who will pick up the book next somewhere down the line? What is the ROI of a used book store? Someone finding the exact same book I did some five years later, slightly more worn, smelling a little differently--a treasure to behold.

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