Interpreter of M

Am going to let you in on a secret. It’s almost like a dirty little secret. Once it’s out, some of you would go doing this


and then some of you would just plain laugh at me.

It’s okay. Ive braced myself. I shall not hold it against you. Here it is. For all the circus I do on how much of a bookworm I am like here,

Up until a month ago, I had not read Jhumpa Lahiri.

There. Now that it’s out, here are my impressions on:

Interpreter of Maladies:

A collection of short stories worked perfectly for me as my attention span was very short during the bad knee post-op period. I absolutely loved her style. The word play, the descriptions of characters, the settings and the smooth flow of events. What occasionally my poor brain was left stumped was the storyline or why the characters did what they did, or what they left ignored. That pretty much takes care of the fact that the author isn’t an easy read. There is a certain subtlety in the plot mainly entrenched in human emotions. Something that leaves the reader to want to reach out and fix them.

One thing that did get difficult as I went through the nine stories was the setting. Mostly set in around Boston/NY area (that’s where Jhumpa grew up) and on Bengalis of different generations, it was an overdose of it imho. I understand as a beginning writer, or anyone who dares to call themselves as writers, usually almost always delve into their own lives and surroundings for material to write upon. It is natural. You write best on what you know best. Somehow stretching it on through every short story seemed to get to me by the time I arrived at the last one.

Short stories:

1. A Temporary Matter: Tangible falling apart of marriage after the stillborn infant. There was a point where I actually felt sorry for the guy. Ending as sensitive and expected.

2. When Mr. Pirzada came to Dine: This somehow didn’t do much for me as far as story was concerned. There was extensive descriptions, overlapping between stories on Bengalis and food and customs, along with historical references to partition of Pakistan. I suppose that’s what the story was al about.

3. Interpreter of maladies: Good one. Descriptions, characters, storyline, all were in perfect sync. The best of the lot.

4. Real Durwan: Tragically read, this could be the story of any of the huge number of older women living off charity back in India. Brings tears to your eyes if you could let yourself get involved in the sentiment between the words.

5. Sexy: This is a bit freaky, creepy and scary rolled into one. You’d imagien the little boy at the end is somehow connected to this two-timing fellow, but he isn’t. Which is the twist, but the way her wheels turn in her head to actually move away, I didn’t get that part. Maybe am dumb.

6. Mrs. Sen: You feel for Mrs. Sen, you goad her, you root for her and you laugh with her. Lovely story.

7. Blessed House: Another freak tale. What is wrong with the wife, what’s wrong with the guy, and why does he have such an aversion to discoveries in his new house. What the hell is wrong with him at the end? See, I missed it all. Personally, I think the wife’s obsessed and she needed a strong thwack on her bottom.

I am so into this story now aren’t I?

8. Treatment of Bibi Haldar: Oh boy, doesn’t everyone everywhere around the world know a Bibi? Nicely done.

9. The Third and Final Continent: Poignant and well written. Liked it.

If I were to read the book again, I’d ignore the continuous Bengali influences, and lifestyles that tie them all and focus on the words. (No offense to Bengalis of any kind, I’d probably say the same if the author was Iyer and every story had pretty much the same kind of descriptive narratives.)

Story? Story will come if you want it to.

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17 replies on “Interpreter of M”
  1. says: Jira

    I’ve never read JL too 🙁
    Must give this one a try…

    BTW, after reading the your ‘nee oru kadahal’ post, I dusted my old CDs, and listened to those oldie goldies..It was awesome to do that aftter a long time! 🙂

  2. I have this book on my shelf, never got around to reading it. I’m always a little wary of the “sensitive” stuff, since I have approximately, the sensitivity of a rhinoceros.

    The lady is said to be a looker, according to a sensitive guy who spent some time with her (he claims. It started with “I saw her at the airport” and currently has reached “we discussed the influence of Scandinavian poetry on her art”)

  3. I need to get my hands on one of her books and this one seems to be a good choice. I watched ‘The Namesake’ which was an adaptation of her book with the same name, which was really good.
    Apparently, her real name is Nilanjana Sudheshna. How beautiful!

  4. says: rads

    Stitha: Really? That’s her name. It is beautiful. 🙂
    Yep, this is the better one as opposed to the more recent Unaccustomed Earth.

    Naren: lol@friend. Nice progress! She does look good. Not your style Naren, you can skip it 🙂

    Jira: Lovely to discover past memories right? Yeah, read this one if you can. 🙂

  5. says: maxdavinci

    If it makes you feel better, I haven’t read a single book since school. Make that VIIth grade!
    Never had the patience to do so, and when I see these cute PYTs burying into a book at airport terminals, I just roll my eyes!

  6. says: rads

    Joy: Yea, Ive been putting it off myself, and now I have Namesake alone left to read. 🙂

    Max: Seriously? No Kidding! How could you not read a book? *gasp (just like Patrick in the Spongebob image above)
    You write without having any reading as a base? That’s amazing!
    Sure, I’ll believe you rolling eyes, not at the PYT’s reading, but coz they are reading and ignoring you 😛

    Adithya: Heard Tabu rocks. Watch it. 🙂

  7. says: Priya

    Phoo – Jhumpa Lahiri is overrated. After you read a couple of her books, the characters are so similar, you feel like your reading the same book again.

    But the Interpreter of Maladies is one of her early (and IMHO) better efforts.


  8. says: Sachita

    I have read both Interpreter of maladies and Namesake. love them. In my case think some of these stories took sometime sink in(you know soak it in for couple of days/week)

    When I read the short stories, “A Temporary Matter”, the plot I have come across but never understand this misdirection of anger but few months ago, it just suddenly came all together. While a Blessed house just stuck a chord immediately with me.

    I love how unpretentious her writing(compared to some one like Arundhati roy) even though she sticks on to the rule, I am an Indian(American/otherwise) author, so my stories should have pathos running in them.

    And for all the people who still have book or the movie option still open for namesake, please read the book, skip the movie.

  9. says: Sachita

    Also, I like it when an author sets their writing in familiar milieu, every grain of the culture, life is ingrained in their subconsicious and gets reflected in their writing. like Khalid Hussein writes about afghanistan..

    While writing about a culture unfamiliar to them, there is a bit of condescending tone creeps in. Eg. American writing about India.

  10. says: some body


    at the rate you are posting, i need more luck than you, if i have to maintain my reputation as even a monoblogous* blogworm (let alone commenting on ’em)!!


    are you the same as “sachita(india) at terri’s? it would be kinda ironic if sachita(india) were to have no blog, and you were a different sachita with a sachitaindia blog!

    “Nilanjana Sudheshna”!! omg!! no wonder she took on a “global” name like ‘jhumpa’. betcha** she didn’t want to have the americans choking over their starbycks at oprah’s bookclub discussions!

    here is a hypothetical interview:

    katie couric (to palin): have you read any *holds her throat in her hands while speaking* nilanjana sudheshna novels?

    palin: *without blinking an eye* (well, maybe blinking just the one) yes, all of ’em.

    katie couric: well, can you name one?

    palin: well … i get lots of them at my desk as governor of alaska. i read all of ’em!

    – s.b.

    * = not strictly true 🙂

    ** = betcha you’ll hear this word more often, live on saturday night (and on other nights!).

  11. says: rads

    sb: lol, no pressure absolutely, as far as you reading, comments can wait ;-p
    LOL@Palin convo. She’s given humor a fresh reboot 🙂

    Sachita: Those are some fine enlightening comments. Agree on most.
    re authors setting in familiar mileu, but of course it seems most natural. The fiction is just the frill there, for the most part one is digging from within for personal experiences or ones that are tangible on hearsay within their own ethnic/cultural group. I personally think, as a challenge, after an audience is established, one needs to push those boundaries and leave comfort zones to grow.
    Condescending or not truly depends on the authors perception, and the readers interpretation. As I say, once an art leaves the artist’s hands, it doesn’t belong to the artist anymore.

    I haven’t read Namesake and neither have I watched the movie, so I really wouldn’t know than what I hear. Ms Lahiri has the word skill going for her. This is precisely why she should step out of familiar settings. There’s a whole world to explore… At least that’s my 2 cents.

    Priya: Yeah, it’s a good collection no doubt. Awards just don’t land for no reason 🙂

    Laksh: O am sure. She is a stylish and equally sensitive writer. 🙂

  12. says: sachita

    Sachita, sachita(india) is the same. WordPress gives me an option to enter Name, while blogger if I am logged onto google, just gives the blog name as the user name. Now answer this, if sb is somebody what does vb translate to?

  13. says: Medha

    OMG.. u shld SO read Unaccustomed Earth! And Namesake too! Seriously they are damn good books!

    Needless to say, i am a HUGE Jhumpa Lahiri fan. 🙂

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