Friday, November 20, 2009

"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Among the pile of daily chores and lots of unexpected happenings, this and that, I had had for more than six months to start reading this book "Interpreter of Maladies". This is a collection of nine short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri who won many authoritative literature awards including the Pulitzer when it was first published as her d├ębut book. As soon as I finished the first story "A Temporary Matter", I moaned, realizing I could have gotten acquainted with this excellent writer six months earlier if I had just opened the pages when I first bought it! Jhumpa Lahiri leapt onto my top ten foreign women writers (to me, "foreign writer" means non-Japanese). 

Jumpa Lahiri is a second generation Indian, the daughter of immigrant parents, raised and educated in the U.S. I was intrigued not only by her astonishingly rich, smooth and beautiful style of writing, but also by her themes. The nine short stories are scenes of the daily lives of Indian people or Indian-Americans. She picked out scenes from their lives made them into beautiful short vignettes. Their lives are filled with cultural challenges , bewilderment, confusion… and of course warmth and contentment. I am also a foreigner living in a foreign country. Like Lahiri, I see things around me here from the point of view of an "in-between". Things are very different in a way, but I see a lot of similarities too. As far as being human beings, we have common basic sentiments. She rarely describes the sentiments or feelings of her characters, focusing instead on their movements, their surroundings and their properties. 

Living in Seattle, I often pass by Indian people at malls or on the street, because many people from India now work in the IT industry. Jhumpa makes me feel much closer to them and to their culture.

Since I was so moved even by the first story, I felt it was a shame to finish this book in one quick read, so I decided to read one story a night before bed. It was pretty luxurious, as if I were selecting one piece at a time from a box of the best quality chocolates.

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