Interpreter of Maladies is a Pulitzer- winning collection of short stories written by Jhumpa Lahiri. The stories are NewYorker fiction length i.e. 4000 words approximately. I have been Lahiri’s fan for a long time but I had only read her articles and stories found in certain publications. This was the first book I read written by her.
I loved it. The basic theme of the stories in the lives of Indians migrated to the States. I really like the theme because I haven’t read anything so specific on the Indian-American cultural difference before. It also incorporates more common themes like the India-Pakistan-Bangladesh division, gender inequality, religion, and marriage. The writing is engaging, the plots are subtle and powerful at the same time. The characters belong to all age groups. These short stories are of the perfect length. You can easily read one in 30 minutes.
I would rank the stories from best to worst as follows:
- Mrs. Sen’s ( a woman takes up the job of nannying an American kid, doesn’t know how to drive, is upset about her distance from home)
- Interpreter of Maladies ( A tour guide develops feelings for a foreign woman who tells him a personal secret)
- A Temporary Matter ( A married couple are forced to sit down together and talk about their relationship during a series of blackouts)
- When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine ( An immigrant befriends another Immigrant family and worries about the 1971 political disturbance in India)
- This Blessed House ( A recently married couple throws a party and the husband realises that his wife gives him an inferiority complex)
- The Third and Final Continent ( The difficulties of a man and his wife after migrating to the USA)
- The Treatment of Bibi Haldar ( An ill woman, abandoned by her own family, finds a cure in the most unexpected way)
- Sexy ( A foreign woman having an affair with a married Indian man learns about another such affair)
- The Real Durwan (an old woman who comforts her with her past is later kicked out of her locality)
I can see that Lahiri has borrowed some of the incidents from her own experiences and that really makes the book seem genuine and unpretentious.
What I learned from the books:
- People hide their feelings when they shouldn’t
- People find leaving their culture difficult
- The solutions to some problems are quite unexpected
Yeah, there wasn’t much to learn but that okay because I had fun reading the book. I definitely recommend it to migrants and non-migrants alike. A must read!