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Interpreter of Maladies

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Navigating between the Indian traditions they've inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri's elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In "A Temporary Matter," published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant.

198 pages, Hardcover

First published April 20, 1999

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About the author

Jhumpa Lahiri

101 books12.6k followers
Nilanjana Sudeshna "Jhumpa" Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.

Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School and later received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She then received multiple degrees from Boston University: an M.A. in English, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She took up a fellowship at Provincetown's Fine Arts Work Center, which lasted for the next two years (1997-1998).

In 2001, she married Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist who was then Deputy Editor of TIME Latin America Lahiri currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. She has been a Vice President of the PEN American Center since 2005.

Lahiri taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Much of her short fiction concerns the lives of Indian-Americans, particularly Bengalis.

She received the following awards, among others:
1999 - PEN/Hemingway Award (Best Fiction Debut of the Year) for Interpreter of Maladies;
2000 - The New Yorker's Best Debut of the Year for Interpreter of Maladies;
2000 - Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut Interpreter of Maladies

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 13,104 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,085 reviews7,005 followers
May 22, 2021
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 woman listens every day to her 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 woman can’t tell her that she herself is having an affair with a married Bengali 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
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,562 followers
July 13, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Federico DN.
356 reviews619 followers
May 6, 2023
Utter Sadness, minus one.

A collection of short stories by renowned Jhumpa Lahiri. Eight incredibly sad and nostalgic stories, with morsels of indian american culture. In a certain way this reminded me of Gabriel García Márquez, with that tragic mysticism that he used to imprint every single one of his tales. But the stories and novels of García Márquez, although mostly sad, are memorable, and impactful; they have closure, and overall end “well”, with a sort of tragic beauty. The stories of Jhumpa Lahiri are just tragic and mundanely depressing, leaving me only a feeling of profound sadness, and bitterness; minus one outstanding exception. Márquez I carry in my heart, and Lahiri, far from it. However, if you wish like feeling very depressed this is probably a perfect ten!

Go for the Best, consider the Good, whatever the Meh.

The Best :
★★★★★ "The Third and Final Continent." <-- This one is truly “Splendid!”

The Good :
★★★☆☆ "Interpreter of Maladies." [2.5]
★★★☆☆ "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine." [2.5]

The Meh :
★★☆☆☆ "A Real Durwan."
★★☆☆☆ "This Blessed House."
★★☆☆☆ "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar." [1.5]
★★☆☆☆ "A Temporary Matter." [1.5]
★☆☆☆☆ "Sexy." [1.5]
★☆☆☆☆ "Mrs. Sen's."

[1999] [198p] [Collection] [Not Recommendable] [Outlier]

Completa Tristeza, excepto uno.

Colección de cuentos cortos de la renombrada Jhumpa Lahiri. Ocho cuentos terriblemente tristes y nostálgicos, con bocaditos de cultura india americana. En cierto modo me hizo recordar a Gabriel García Márquez, con ese misticismo trágico que solía imprimirle a cada uno de sus relatos. Pero los cuentos y novelas de García Márquez, aunque trágicos, son memorables, e impactan; tienen cierre, y dentro de todo terminaban “bien”, con una especie de belleza trágica. Los cuentos de Jhumpa Lahiri son sólo trágicos y mundanamente deprimentes, dejándome sólo una sensación de profunda tristeza, y amargura; menos una única sobresaliente excepción. A Márquez lo llevo en el corazón, y a Lahiri, lejos de ahí. Sin embargo, ¡si tenés ganas de deprimirte mucho esto es probablemente un perfecto diez!

Ir por lo Mejor, considerar lo Bueno, loquesea lo Meh.

Lo Mejor :
★★★★★ "El Tercer y Ultimo Continente." <-- Este es verdaderamente “¡Espléndido!”

Lo Bueno :
★★★☆☆ "El Intérprete del Dolor." [2.5]
★★★☆☆ "Cuando el Señor Pirzada Venía a Cenar." [2.5]

Lo Meh :
★★☆☆☆ "Un Durwan de Verdad."
★★☆☆☆ "Esta Bendita Casa."
★★☆☆☆ "El Tratamiento de Bibi Haldar." [1.5]
★★☆☆☆ "Una Anomalía Temporal." [1.5]
★☆☆☆☆ "Sexy." [1.5]
★☆☆☆☆ "En Casa de la Señora Sen."

[1999] [198p] [Colección] [No Recomendable] [Minoría]
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
September 16, 2021
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."

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 هندی تبار ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده ی 20م

عنوان: مترجم دردها، نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ برگردان: امیرمهدی حقیقت؛ تهران، ماهی، 1380؛ در 266ص؛ شابک 9649333393؛چاپ دوم سال1381؛ 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 آمریکایی» 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؛ 24/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Brina.
902 reviews4 followers
May 5, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
744 reviews11.9k followers
June 4, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews716 followers
February 28, 2020
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.

Profile Image for Pakinam Mahmoud.
752 reviews2,910 followers
May 13, 2023
ترجمان الأوجاع..مجموعة قصصية رائعة للكاتبة الأمريكية الهندية الأصل جومبا لاهيري و قد احتلت مكانة متميزة بين الأدباء الأمريكيين بهذه المجموعة التي تعد أول أصدراتها الأدبية...

الكتاب عبارة عن ٩ قصص قصيرة بتتكلم فيهم الكاتبة عن تفاصيل حياة الهنود المغتربين في الولايات المتحدة ومحاولتهم للتأقلم كما إنها تلقي الضوء علي إختلاف الثقافات ،الإغتراب ومشاكله الحنين للوطن ومحاولات البحث عن الهوية في مجتمع جديد..

إسلوب السرد رائع..الشخصيات مرسومة بعناية..الترجمة كمان ممتازة و علي غير العادة في في القصص القصيرة تتميز هذه المجموعة بإن معظم القصص حلوة جداً و متنوعة و حتلاقي نفسك مستمتع جداً أثناء القراءة خصوصاً في قصة شأن مؤقت،ترجمان الأوجاع،عندما أتي السيد بيرزادة و امرأة مثيرة...

يُقال عن جومبا لاهيري إنها نوع من الكُتّاب الذين يجعلونك ترغب في أن توقف أول شخص تراه وتحثه علي قراءة كتابها ..وأعتقد إن عندهم حق:)
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.4k followers
January 24, 2023
i love an unpopular opinion, but...

i have to admit this just is as good as everyone says it is.

that's the review.

tbr review

actually reading books i was assigned in school but never picked up in order to achieve genius status
Profile Image for Dolors.
527 reviews2,210 followers
March 16, 2017
“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.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 2 books715 followers
January 21, 2023
That horrible glitch in the Goodreads app caused my review for this book to be deleted as I tried to update my rating.

This is the fifth time this has happened to me, and i know plenty of other users who have been similarly affected. Sort it out, Goodreads.
Profile Image for daph pink ♡ .
929 reviews2,998 followers
July 21, 2021
A short story a day keeps boredom away and makes you genius.

Day 1 :-Temporary matter - 3.25 stars
pretty mediocre in my opinion but it's my first time reading Lahiri books and she has a flair for words.

Day 2 :- When Mr. Pirzada came for dinner - 4 stars
well well well that was sad and sweet.
Ps:- I like smart kids.

Day 3 :- Interpreter of maladies - 4.25 stars
it was literal until it transcended to sophisticated level

Day 4 :- The real durwan - 3.75 stars
poignant and left me with a question "what could have happened next?"

Day 5 :- Sexy - 2 stars
it was flat for me compared to other stories that I have read!

Day 6:- Mrs. Sen - 2.75 stars
all bout attire and cooking, I don't mind but its like repititive

Day 7:- The blessed house- 2.5 stars
started really great but then went downhill and the ending ruined it all

Day 8:- Treatment of Bibi Halder - 3.5 stars
pretty intriguing and interesting, every Indian can relate

Day 9:- The third and final continent - 3 stars
a perfect end to the book

Overall = 3.2 stars ~ 3 stars
Profile Image for Nishat.
27 reviews410 followers
August 30, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,681 followers
August 6, 2015
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."
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,541 followers
April 20, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews
February 23, 2022
أول مجموعة قصصية للكاتبة جومبا لاهيري
أسلوب جميل وهادئ في الحكي عن مشاهد من حياة المغتربين الهنود
تجمع لاهيري التفاصيل الخاصة والعامة لترسم عوالم الشخصيات
في كل قصة صورة من العلاقات والهموم والمشاعر وضغوط الواقع
وتتناول خلال السرد مفردات الهجرة.. الاغتراب والحنين والثقافات المختلفة
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,019 reviews458 followers
May 11, 2021
Just superlative. Her writing transported me immediately into whatever world she had created.

I was fully immersed with every story. Her writing is not flowery or verbose. At the end of each story, I “got it”. I understood the point she was making. I did not walk away from a story asking “what did I just read? I don’t understand the point of this story”. Some of the stories had sad endings, some had hopeful endings. But regardless of the tone of the ending, I felt satisfied—that I had read another good story.

I just finished a story a couple days ago that won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and I could not understand why it merited such an award from that prestigious institution. Well, this collection won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000—I could fully understand the deserving recognition this author got. A superb job. I will want to read more of her. I just read a very nice book review by a GR reviewer, Glenn, of her collection of essays on book covers, The Clothing of Books (2016), so that will certainly be on my TBR list!

In looking at one of the reviews for this book, I couldn’t put it any better than they did: “Within a short number of pages, Lahiri successfully articulates characters that are multifaceted, dynamic and wholly original. Her prose in general is on point—simple yet rich.”

Stories in order of their appearance and where they were initially published (last story was apparently new for this collection) and my ratings:
• "A Temporary Matter" (previously published in The New Yorker) — 5 stars
• "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine" (previously published in The Louisville Review) —4 stars
• "Interpreter of Maladies" (previously published in the Agni Review) — 10 stars if I could
• "A Real Durwan" (previously published in the Harvard Review) — 4 stars
• "Sexy" (previously published in The New Yorker) — 4 stars
• "Mrs. Sen's" (previously published in Salamander) — 3.5 stars
• "This Blessed House" (previously published in Epoch) — 5 stars
• "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" (previously published in Story Quarterly) — 3.5 stars
• "The Third and Final Continent" — 7 stars if I could

Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,688 followers
September 15, 2017
“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
The Third and Final Continent

Meh stories:

A Real Durwan
The Treatment of Bibi Haldar
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
April 7, 2019
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!
Profile Image for Adina ( On hiatus until next week) .
827 reviews3,234 followers
January 14, 2015
An interesting collection of short stories, mostly concerning the experience of Indian emigrants in America. I do not usually read short stories but I saw many good reviews about this collection and I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did and it made me want to read more short stories in the future. All stories are a little bit bittersweet, some even made my cry.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,023 reviews4,067 followers
August 25, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Dream.M.
453 reviews90 followers
March 17, 2021
به قدری از داستانهای این کتاب لذت بردم که وسوسه شدم از زن عموم بپیچونمش. ( خودم براش خریدم)
خدا اگر کمی انصاف داشته باشه، باید دزدهای کتاب رو به جای خنک‌تری از جهنم بفرسته یا اگر خیلی مهربون باشه میتونه مارو بفرسته به جای گرم و خشک‌تر بهشت. خلاصه کاش حساب مارو با بقیه دزدها یکی نکنه .
درباره خود کتاب هم که مجموعه ۹ داستان کوتاهه با تم فاصله. ( این کلمه رو از یه ریویوو کش رفتم) و راوی های داستانها در همه شون مهاجران بنگالی_هندی هستن .
خیلی خوبن آقا
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Greta G.
337 reviews243 followers
November 23, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,286 reviews421 followers
September 1, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Heba.
1,034 reviews1,984 followers
January 27, 2023
هنا بنعومة شفيفة يصلك الأنين الخافت لهذه المجموعة القصصية المتميزة عن المهاجرين من الأصول الهندية والبنغالية في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية...
وإذ بالصوت السردي الهادىء يصطحبك برفقته لتتأمل حياة هؤلاء المغتربين عن أوطانهم ، تتوالى أمام ناظريك صور حياتهم اليومية بكل تفاصيلها الدقيقة بألوانها المتباينة ، زواياها الخفية ،و تمزق أرواحهم بين الغياب والاغتراب...
شيء ما يتوارى وراء جدار الصمت يوخزك ألماً...يباغتك رابطة الصداقة التى قد عقدتها مع جميع الشخصيات بلا استثناء...
تجمعك بهم مشاعر حميمية دافئة ، تراك تنصت لأوجاعهم ، وإلى ذاك الانكسار في نبراتهم...تتملى في ابتسامتهم المتجمدة التي تخشى أن تذوب فتكشف عن ذاك الحزن الدفين بدواخلهم...، ملامح وجوههم التي تأبى أن تلين إلا لما كل ما هو تقليدي ينتمي لموطنهم الأصلي..
ونظراتهم الحائرة التي تبحث عن مكانٍ تلوذ به ذواتهم في أرض غريبة مجهولة....
هنا عندما تشحن ظلك إلى أبعد نقطة بالعالم لانقاذ شيء ما تجهل ماهيته غير أنك تتوق دوماً لروحك التي غادرتها هناك..
عندما تقودك الحياة لمسارات لم تكن لتتوقعها...
عندما تنتظر رسائل الأهل وتفض أغلفتها وتبادر بقراءتها فإذا بدموعك تريق الكلمات ويغدو كل شيء متناهي الصغر لا يسع حنينك الجارف لموطنك...
أخيراً..هنالك أوجاع تفقدك الاحساس بالحياة بأسرها ، وبينما تحاول أن تُلملم الكلمات من هنا وهناك لصياغتها ، تراك عاجزاً عن تقديم تفسيراً لها و تتمنى لو أن هنالك ترجمان للأوجاع يتولى المهمة عنك وبينما تتمسك بطوق النجاة تتساءل :
" أليس هناك ما تقوله..؟ ".....
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,293 reviews2,286 followers
November 21, 2021
First published in 1999, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2000 has nine short stories: A Temporary Matter, When Mr Pirzada Came to Dine, Interpreter of Maladies, A Real Durwan, Sexy, Mrs Sen's, This Blessed House, The Treatment of Bibi Haldar and The Third and Final Continent.

The stories talk about how we get caught up in our lives and missing out on the genuine pleasures of life which we keep denying ourselves of, immigrants and culture mix, sentiments and emotions, our beliefs and unsettling human nature, marriages and relationships, memories and moments that matter, home and belongingness.

I read this collection two years ago; I reread it again and it still stands good as one of the best short story collections ever written.

The writing is unique, beautiful and has a voice like it doesn't need many words.

The stories have a deeper meaning to each and are told in a way that you would want more when they end.

This book still stands out bold today. If at all, you've been looking for a short story collection, pick up this book. It has lots to offer.
Profile Image for Kerrin .
293 reviews230 followers
April 29, 2022
As a number of reviewers before me have commented Don't get this from Audible! I did it only because I needed to read it quickly for book club. It seems like this was originally published on cassette tapes and then uploaded to digital. There are strange breaks with music that are non-sensical. My only guess is these are the places where you had to switch out the cassettes. The narrator is not very good at changing voices, especially male voices.

This book is a collection of short stories about ordinary people, mostly Bengalis (Calcutta). Some are American immigrants living in Boston, while some of the stories take place in Bengal. Many of the stories are about mundane situations, but the author makes you care about the individuals.

4-stars for the stories. 2-stars for the Audible version.
17 reviews10 followers
May 13, 2008
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!
Profile Image for Miss Ravi.
Author 1 book992 followers
February 8, 2017
بعد از چند سال که دوباره خواندمش انگار چیزهایی به کتاب اضافه شده و در این مدتی که کتاب توی کتابخانه‌ام بوده داستان‌ها مثل درخت رشد کرده‌اند و شاخ و برگ داده‌اند. همه‌شان داستان‌های معرکه‌ای هستند و می‌شود به تنهایی برای هر کدام یک تحلیل مفصل نوشت. عناصر داستانی به بهترین شکل ممکن به کار گرفته شده‌اند و درونمایه‌ی داستان‌ها هم در عین سادگی‌شان که نشات گرفته از احساسات انسانی و مسائل ساده‌ی زندگی هستند، داستان‌های کامل و عمیقی ساخته‌اند.
داستان «یک مسئله‌ی موقتی» داستان زن و مردی است که رابطه‌شان به دلایلی دچار سردی شده است. و مسئله‌ی موقتی قطع برق در چند ساعت از شب باعث می‌شود که آن‌ها هر کدام به نوعی با این مسئله برخورد کنند. داستان انگار قصه‌ی دو سرزمین است. سرزمین مرد و سرزمین زن. مرد تصورات خودش را دارد، نگاه زن، کلام گاه صمیمانه‌اش که بعد از ماه‌ها اتفاق می‌افتد و فشردن دستش توسط او، هر کدام مرد را به سوی برداشتی می‌کشاند اما خواننده نمی‌داند آن‌سو در مرزهای زن چه اتفاقی می‌افتد. نمی‌داند در دنیای زنی که بحرانی را پشت سر گذاشته –و یا شاید هم‌چنان درگیر آن است- چه می‌گذرد. مرد انگار که بازگشته باشد به سال‌ها، ماه‌ها و روزهای نخست رابطه‌شان اضطراب دلچسبی را احساس می‌کند. در طول روز مدام به این فکر می‌کند که چه بگوید، چطور رفتار کند، میز شام را چطور بچیند. در این داستان همه‌چیز سر جای خودش قرار دارد. نشانه‌ها خواننده را به‌سمت فضایی پیش می‌برند که در آن قضاوت بر سر آن‌چه پیش خواهد آمد، دشوار است اما تنها «چرایی» داستان نیست که موجب کشش آن می‌شود، تصویری که نویسنده از رابطه‌ی زخم‌آلود زن و مرد می‌دهد و «چگونگی» برخورد مرد و مهم‌تر از آن واکنش زن است که داستان را به اثری بی‌نقص تبدیل می‌کند.
Profile Image for Olivier Delaye.
Author 1 book212 followers
August 4, 2022
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.

Author of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series
The Forgotten Goddess (Sebasten of Atlantis, #1) by Olivier Delaye
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