Kurt's Reviews > Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
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's review
Dec 01, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: pulitzer, fiction, short-stories
Read in February, 2009

Nine short stories comprise this fairly short book which won the Pulitzer prize in 2000. All the stories involve native people from India, and most of the main characters are immigrants to the United States. The stories are:

1. A Temporary Matter – A young Indian immigrant couple who have lately drifted apart spend evenings during scheduled blackouts revealing secrets to each other. The young man enjoys the sessions and feels drawn closer to his wife. However, his wife, on the last day of the blackout, reveals that she is moving out and seeking a divorce.

2. When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine – a young boy learns a lot about the world and about his home country of India during the several weeks that a fellow immigrant dined with them in the evenings during the East-West Paskitani civil war.

3. Interpreter of Maladies – A tour guide in India is smitten by the young mother of a family he is driving to various sites. Because she takes an interest in his other profession, as a translator for a local doctor, he becomes enthralled with ideas of friendship and correspondence with her. As he later learns about her less-than-exemplary ways he becomes less enchanted.

4. A Real Durwan – A very poor old woman lives at the entrance to a lower-middle class apartment complex. She brags to everyone about the luxurious life she lived prior to partition. She is slowly neglected and eventually forced to leave her simple abode.

5. Sexy – A young woman has an on-going affair with a married man from India. She enjoys the attention and novelty at first, but eventually, because of the frankness of a young boy whose father is also having an affair, she realizes that what she is doing is wrong.

6. Mrs. Sen’s – A young boy spends his time after school with an immigrant woman who is being pressured by her husband to learn how to drive.

7. This Blessed House – A young Indian immigrant couple has just moved into a fixer-upper house. The woman keeps finding Christian symbols (statues, paintings, crosses, etc.) which she insists on keeping and even displaying while her husband wants to get rid of them all – they are Hindus.

8. The Treatment of Bibi Haldar – An undesirable orphan girl in India is afflicted with some kind of epilepsy for which no doctor seems to be able to alleviate. One sage eventually declares that if she will get married she will be cured, but despite efforts to find a husband she has no takers. Her plight worsens and eventually she is found to be pregnant. She never reveals who the father is, but after the birth she seems to be cured.

9. The Third and Final Continent – In 1969, a young man immigrates to the US where he rents a room from a 103-year-old woman who is thrilled about the recent moon landing.

In order (best to worst): 3, 5, 9, 1, 8, 4, 7, 2, 6. The first three are really excellent, while the last couple are just so-so. The writing is excellent and managed to keep my attention even though nothing truly exciting was ever being described. So, I give it 5 stars for the writing and 3 stars for the stories themselves. Overall a very good book.
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02/07/2009 page 50
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