Interpreter of Maladies: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

“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.”

Jhumpa Lahiri’s restrained storytelling is a pleasure to read. I find her sparse yet elegant prose to be truly sublime. In these short stories, Lahiri demonstrates her eye for detail as she captures with crystal clarity moments of seeming mundanity. By focusing on ordinary moments, such as a family meal, and places, the inside of a car or a condominium, Lahiri succeeds in bringing to life her characters, their environments, and their experiences. Her subtle irony makes her stories all the more engrossing. With nuance and insight, Lahiri delves into her characters’ outer and inner lives. While Lahiri does describe many of her characters’ feelings and thoughts, she also allows room for ambiguity. It’s impressive how her stories strike me both for their clarity and opaqueness.

As with The Namesake within this collection Lahiri explores cultural and generational divides as well as the conflict between familial and personal identity. Many of the characters grapple with grief, loneliness, rootlessness, and heartache. A sense of sadness, nostalgia even, permeates many of these narratives, which made them all the more poignant. My personal favourites were ‘A temporary matter’, ‘When Mr. Pirzada came to dine’, and ‘Sexy’.
This is a truly superb collection one that I would definitely recommend to loves of the short story format.

my rating: ★★★★☆

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