Short Story Reads: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Gifted with an elegance remeniscient of Anita Desai and glowingly compassionate, Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (1999) still eminates with delicate, beautifully carved keen insights. 

Indians living overseas are pivotal to most of the gathered tales.  

A Temporary Matter is about five days of a one-hour power cut and how it causes a young couple to converse and reflect. The premise may seem ordinary, but Lahiri weaves lively stems of thoughts, imagery and conversations to carve out the intricacies of a fragile marriage.

Tonight with no lights, they would have to eat together. For months now they’d served themselves from the stove, and he’d taken his plate into his study, letting the meal grow cold on his desk before shoving it into his mouth without pause, while Shoba took her plate to the living room and watched game shows, or proofread files with her arsenal of colored pencils at hand. 

Excerpt from A Temporary Matter

When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine is a weaved mix of history, house guests and human tenderness in a heartfelt tale. The blood-splattering formation of Bangladesh is a moving canvas to this account of families, geographies, meetings and partings. 

Jhumpa Lahiri (file photo)

Interpreter of Maladies is about unique human connections and separations, rarely explored in a short story, loosely parallel to the universal spirit in Rabindranath Tagore’s writings. Rich in descriptive prose, the oddities of bonding in transit are magnificently explored, a story that places Lahiri among  the best short story specialists.

The vulnerable life of the downtrodden is given strong emphasis and sensitivity in A Real Durwan. A powerful yet understated turn, a social take that evokes sympathy without any exagerrated drama.  

Stunning debut collection 

The other stories offer unique insights and perspectives into contrasting lives, different cultures, complexities of human relationships, expressed in graceful, unblinking, lush, intelligent detail. 

The publication lead to deserving rave reviews, with Lahiri gaining prominence as an important literary voice over subsequent decades.   

If I were to look for enhancements, would be more infusions of lightness and humour. But these are merely afterthoughts, for the writer’s hold on her craft is exemplary throughtout, haven’t read anything as fluid in ages. 

As if  Lahiri was destined to echo, amplify the voice of immigrants and the disowned through her yarns. 

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Jhumpa Lahiri photographed for Financial Times article (2019)

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