Pulitzer Prize-winning Jhumpa Lahiri has an impressive collection of novels that are guaranteed to appeal to your tastes. DESIblitz reviews some of her best works to date.
Writing from the heart and soul is an even more challenging task
Writing is an exercise which requires lots of patience and tremendous passion.
Writing from the heart and soul is an even more challenging task.
But American author, Jhumpa Lahiri has mastered this art.
Coming from an Indian Bengali background, Lahiri was educated and lived in the USA for the better part of her life.
Now she has moved out to Italy for good, embracing her passion for the Italian culture and language.
Jhumpa Lahiri does not follow any specific rules to create her stories, but she stirs up powerful pathos and there is a melancholic air surrounding her stories.
Lahiri holds a number of awards and honours for her contribution to the creative writing industry. She is also the proud owner of three literary masters’ degrees and a doctorate in Renaissance studies.
DESIblitz takes you through Jhumpa Lahiri’s portfolio of published work.
Interpreter of Maladies (1999)
Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut collection of stories, published in 1999, depicts the experiences of multiple characters trapped between two cultural poles.
Consisting of nine incredible stories, Interpreter of Maladies is an eloquent piece of work.
The plots and characters are unpretentious, yet they portray complex tales of human feelings and nature.
Personal everyday events turn out to be extraordinary narratives from Lahiri’s perspective.
She explores the Indian and Indian-American experience through diverse characters who continuously struggle with their identity, culture and love.
‘This Blessed House’ tells the story of newlyweds Sanjeev and Twinkle. Their seemingly happy life slowly becomes tarnished as the two realise they aren’t as similar as they once thought.
Twinkle’s obsession with Christian iconography irritates Sanjeev. They argue about a statue of the Virgin Mary and Twinkle tells Sanjeev she hates him.
Although they make up before their housewarming party, Sanjeev is left with lingering doubts about their mutual affection.
As we progress further into story, the audience are told about Sanjeev’s height complex, which worries him.
“He was of average height as well, and had wished ever since he had stopped growing that he were just one inch taller. For this reason it irritated him when Twinkle insisted on wearing high heels…”
However in the concluding scene, we see Twinkle throw away her high heels, which fills Sanjeev’s heart with renewed hope about their relationship.
The Namesake (2003)
This novel was adapted into a film by director Mira Nair in 2006. The Namesake is also published in Bengali under the title, Samanami.
“She has gathered that Americans, in spite of their public declarations of affection, in spite of their miniskirts and bikinis, in spite of their hand-holding on the street and lying on top of each other on the Cambridge Common, prefer their privacy.”
The novel follows the life of Gogol who was named after Russian novelist, Nikolai Gogol. It portrays his battle to discover his true identity within the wilderness of a foreign land.
As a second generation immigrant, Gogol struggles with his peculiar name and later with the strict traditions passed on to him by his parents.
However, as Gogol matures, he comes to appreciate the effort his parents went through, adapting into a new country and an entirely new culture. He soon recognises the value of their existence.
He eventually understands his parents and the different world they live in, which brings him solace.
The Namesake is a bittersweet journey of self-discovery.
Unaccustomed Earth (2008)
Unaccustomed Earth is an anthology of eight moving stories that take us in the exploration of the surreptitious untold tales in and around marriage.
Unaccustomed Earth is about a Bengali family settled in the USA. Ruma, a Bengali lawyer is married to an American husband and looking after her son whilst being pregnant with the second.
She later fears the responsibility of taking care of her widowed father. However, Ruma’s father has other ideas. He is looking to marry another widowed Bengali woman.
Lahiri brilliantly explores the portrayal of unspoken words and feelings between father and daughter.
The Lowland (2013)
“This was the woman Narasimhan had married, as opposed to whatever girl from Madras his family wanted for him. Subhash wondered how his family reacted to her.
“He wondered if she’d ever been to India. If she had, he wondered whether she’d liked it or hated it. He could not guess from looking at her.”
The Lowland is a poignant story of two brothers. Growing up in India, born just one year apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are always together, often mistaken for twins. But in another way they stand poles apart, with two diverse views and futures.
Udayan, on impulse joins Naxalite, a rebellion movement in India rose to stamp out inequity and poverty. Subhash, settles in the USA with his scientific research and academic aspirations.
The Lowland speaks to us about of the consequences of choices, love, loss, betrayal and loyalty.
In Other Words [In Altre Parole] (2015/16)
Originally published in Italian in 2015, this novel is also set to be published in English in 2016 translated by Goldstein.
In Other Words is Jhumpa Lahiri’s longing for a home for her heart. It is her obsession for another language and another culture. In her mid twenties, a trip to Italy captivates and locks her heart forever.
She learns Italian and consequently takes a big leap to move into Rome with her family.
This autobiographical account of Jhumpa Lahiri’s life examines the route and art of learning a new language and how it feels to express oneself in another language.
It speaks about a fascinating journey of an artist looking for a new voice, a new identity and a new character.
Jhumpa Lahiri stands out as one of the most successful writers in English literary world, through her powerful and poignant style of expression.
Her foray into the complexities of identity across multiple cultures is a timeless issue that many readers can relate to.
Images courtesy of Jhumpa Lahiri Official Facebook
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