- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: 4th Estate - GB (12 May 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0006551793
- ISBN-13: 978-0007718696
- Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 322 g
- Customer Reviews: 767 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 35,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Interpreter of Maladies Paperback – 12 May 2000
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‘Lahiri has an extraordinary voice’
‘Jhumpa Lahiri is the kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person you see and say
She’s a dazzling storyteller with a distinctive voice, an eye for nuance, an ear for irony. She is one of the finest short story writers I’ve read.’
‘Jhumpa Lahiri’s strong, subtle short story collection is a debut to relish.’
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Top international reviews
The ruthlessly economical language, overall, does risk creating the impression of cold detachment. Jhumpa Lahiri lists the great Alice Munro among her literary heroes and the influence is easy to detect. I for one happen to love Munro therefore liked Lahiri very much indeed.
And it's true, the book has the faults all short stories collections usually suffer from: read in isolation, each story is interesting, even startling. Each story is also masterfully complete and left me satisfied with the amount of detail about each character, and with the ending. But as a whole book, the stories become repetitive. I quickly found the characters to resemble each other throughout, and that I had read the same story too many times, in this book and elsewhere. The affair between a young woman and an older, married man has been done to death, surely, and so has the young or not so young couple falling out of love. Furthermore, here, unfortunately, the unrelenting stylistic simplicity (the very thing which, for me, defines great writing) ends up feeling a little like dullness, and the author's elegant objectivity could push the reader into feeling disengaged and therefore uninterested.
'Interpreter of Maladies' certainly cannot be described as unputdownable; in fact, it is best to put the book down after one, maximum two stories, and come back to it much later. That being said, there are a few stories to which I shall return with delight, for sure.
Her style is subtle and spare but lyrical and unique. A wonderful find and glad I read it
The book is a collection of 9 short stories, mostly about Bengali immigrants in the US from the Bengal area of India, around Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Here’s a sample of some of the stories –
The title story is about a man who is an interpreter of native Indian languages for a doctor. He is also a tour guide for visitors to India. He tells this to a Bengali couple, visiting from the states. The wife, desperate for someone to confide in, thinks he is like a psychological counselor and pours out her secrets to him.
In “Mrs. Sen’s,” an eleven-year old boy learns the extent of the loneliness of a Bengali woman in Boston who desperately misses her own country and her large extended family in India.
“A Real Durwan” is one of two stories set back in India. A poor old woman, bent with age, has a job sweeping the stairwell in an apartment building. 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.
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.