Title: Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publication Year: 1999
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Source: Borrowed from my classroom
From the cover:
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 a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant. She is an important and powerful new voice.
When I picked up this book, I didn’t think that I had read it before. About halfway through, though, I realized that most of the stories sounded really familiar, and I soon figured out that this was a re-read. Still not sure when I read it, but it was likely for a university course in my undergrad.
Regardless of the familiarity of the stories, I still enjoyed Interpreter of Maladies as if it was the first time. Each of the short stories in the collection touches on the life or lives of Indian immigrants (or descendants of immigrants) to America. The stories navigate the space in and around cultural and generational barriers and struggles with identity; some of the stories are “happier” than others, but all of them are intriguing and beautiful in their own way.
There’s something eerie about the way that Lahiri writes, that draws you into the story and see the characters in a deeper light. Even when the person has done something – or a series of things – that aren’t exactly positive, Lahiri seems to find something about them for you to sympathize with, or at the very least to understand them or feel their pain for just a moment. Interpreter of Maladies definitely isn’t a collection of positive, uplifting short stories in the traditional way you might think of them, but it definitely has a unique character all its own that is worth experiencing.