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Interpreter of Maladies

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  166,665 ratings  ·  11,328 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

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
Hardcover, 198 pages
Published May 22nd 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published April 20th 1999)
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Kristina Harrison One of my teachers gave our 12th grade English classes several of the stories: "A Temporary Matter," "Interpreter of Maladies," and "This Blessed Hous…moreOne of my teachers gave our 12th grade English classes several of the stories: "A Temporary Matter," "Interpreter of Maladies," and "This Blessed House." They were reasonably popular with many students, and a couple of us liked them so much that we bought the entire collection.(less)

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Jim Fonseca
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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
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."

A Temporary Matter: A married couple, Shukumar and Shoba, live as strangers in their house until an electrical out
Always Pouting
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
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
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The exiled, in and out.
Shelves: read-in-2016
“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
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
Jr Bacdayan
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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 ...more
Aug 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“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
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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 anoth
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzer
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
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: awardwinning
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 ...more
Mar 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Krys by: everyone
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
Olivier Delaye
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Tamoghna Biswas
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Mar 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: india, usa, 2020-read
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 ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
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.
Gabrielle Grosbety
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
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
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
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
Aj the Ravenous Reader
Total average rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 .5

Not a huge fan of anthologies but I decided to give Interpreter of Maladies a chance because the book is short, only nine stories in all and I'm very glad I read this.

The stories are gorgeously written, Ms. Lahiri's writing flows with such ease and grace. Her subject matters and approach have a universal appeal and despite most of the stories tackling a depressing subject, the author still manages to make her writing light and hopeful. Now I definitely see that this
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
97th book of 2020.

When one discusses the greatest short stories writers, there are names one always expects to hear: Chekhov, Saki, Mansfield... and the ones I always refer to: Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Lucia Berlin, Jorge Luis Borges... And now I will add to that list Jhumpa Lahiri.

The stories in this collection and their ratings:

A Temporary Matter: 4
When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine: 5
Interpreter of Maladies: 5
A Real Durwan: 4
Sexy: 5
Mrs. Sen's: 4
This Blessed House: 4
The Treatment of Bibi
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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 d

Articles featuring this book

  The United States of America is an awfully big place. Sensibly, we chopped it into states a long time ago. This simplifies...
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“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.” 644 likes
“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." (from "The Third and Final Continent")” 131 likes
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