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L'omonimo by Jhumpa Lahiri

L'omonimo (original 2003; edition 2007)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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9,585263301 (3.9)416
Authors:Jhumpa Lahiri
Info:Guanda (2007), Perfect Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:letteratura indiana, India

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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)

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English (259)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (263)
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
“That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

This novel spans the first three decades of a young man's life, a man who is a first generation immigrant into America of Indian parentage. When the boy is born his parents give him a temporary "petname" Gogol while they wait for the "good" one being sent by airmail from his maternal grandmother back in India. However, the missive never arrives and due to American bureaucracy the boy is left with this unusual moniker.

Almost two decades later, Gogol is finding his strange name - neither Bengali nor American - a burden, an embarrassment and a bore. He makes a legal change to Nikhil and is at first pleased with his new name but he also feels a sense of guilt that he has somehow betrayed his parents.

From this simple misunderstanding the author is able to turn a seemingly trivial occurrence into something much larger: namely the story of a man and his family, of his life and hopes, loves and sorrows with all the unfortunate pitfalls that afflict life, sudden death, a first kiss, marriage and divorce. Her skill at deploying small physical details as a path into character is both clever and enjoyable. When Gogol meets Maxine, soon to be a girlfriend and daughter of liberal American parents wonderfully Lahiri manages to contrast her home life with that of Gogol's with a touching simplicity. In particular when the girl Maxine meets Gogol's mother, two women who despite both living in one country are from two very different worlds that is not merely denoted by age alone. Nothing seems artificial. Nothing seems remotely made-up.

As you will expect this novel is wide ranging in its outlook and there are many themes throughout. There is family, foreignness, home,love, differences between life in India, America and Europe but perhaps the over-riding theme is dissatisfaction. Gogol's mother, Ashima, in particular feels a dissatisfaction with her life in America caused by her homesickness and the lack of her extended family whereas Gogol feels dissatisfaction caused by alienation and cultural differences he feels within America, the country of his birth.

I found this a very enjoyable and beautifully written novel which gives an interesting insight in the trials and tribulations of immigrants trying to settle in a foreign land, in particular one with a very different cultural background from their own. A book that I would certainly recommend. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Oct 9, 2016 |
I loved her Unaccustomed Earth , but this was not so engrossing. Interesting tale of a search for identity by a Bengali man in Boston. Good references to architecture, Chelsea in Manhattan, good descriptions of Bengal social life. Often too detailed , this dragged. My familiarity wit Manhattan enhanced my pleasure. Shnoop website has interesting analysis of the characters. ( )
  MaximWilson | Sep 25, 2016 |
There is something about Indian family sagas that makes for great literature. Rohinton Mistry has written some great ones. I guess it is the dynamics of the close family ties that we Westerners admire but we also know that we would never want that for ourselves. Lahiri has evoked the life of a Bengali family in America masterfully in this novel.
Gogol Ganguli was born in Boston to Ashima and Ashoke, immigrants from Calcutta who moved to the United States so Ashoke could further his studies in electrical engineering. Their marriage was arranged and they hardly knew each other when they started living together in Boston. Ashima was particularly lonesome so far from home and her family. When she became pregnant they agreed that her grandmother would pick a name for the child. The grandmother sent off her choice in a letter but the letter never arrived. Told by the hospital officials that they had to pick a name to put on the birth certificate before they left the hospital, Ashoke chose Gogol after his favourite Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol. Actually Ashoke had an even more important reason for choosing the name but Gogol was a grown-up before his father told him that reason. When Gogol started kindergarten his parents registered him as Nikhil Ganguli. In India most people have a pet name and a good name. Your family and close friends call you by your pet name but everyone else uses your good name. Ashoke and Ashima thought that their son should have a good name that was not quite as unusual as Gogol. However, when Gogol started kindergarten he would not respond to Nikhil and told the principal that his name was Gogol. Consequently, Gogol was how he was known until he went to university. By then he had come to despise the name Gogol and he decided to change his name to Nikhil. Gogol rejected his parents’ lifestyle in other ways. He decided to become an architect instead of a doctor or engineer as most young Bengali men did. He drank whereas his parents never had any liquor. His first serious love affair was with an American woman who introduced him to plays and art and food that he had never encountered before. As he got older, though, he started to understand his parents and to follow their advice. He was convinced by his mother to date the daughter of a friend, someone who had often been to parties where Gogol was in attendance. They got married but the marriage ended when Gogol found out his wife was having an affair. Gogol would have to find his own path in life, treading between Bengali and American culture.
I recommend this book highly but I have one piece of advice: don’t read this book on an empty stomach. The description of Indian food had me salivating and wishing I could whip up a batch of curry. However we are camping and I don’t have any of my curry spices with me. Maybe somewhere on the road we will run across an Indian restaurant. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 30, 2016 |
Bengali family — children born here — their life — trying to assimilate w/ American after they go to college — very pensive — slow feeling + words

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.
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  christinejoseph | Jul 24, 2016 |
My favorite book from this Pulitzer prize-winning author. ( )
  ChrisWay | Jul 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 259 (next | show all)
Jhumpa Lahiri's quietly dazzling new novel, ''The Namesake,'' is that rare thing: an intimate, closely observed family portrait that effortlessly and discreetly unfolds to disclose a capacious social vision.
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The reader should realize himself that it could not have happened otherwise, and that to give him any other name was quite out of the question.
        -- Nikolai Gogol, 'The Overcoat'
For Alberto and Octavio,
whom I call by other names
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On a sticky August evening two weeks before her due date, Ashima Ganguli stands in the kitchen of a Central Square apartment, combining Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts and chopped red onion in a bowl.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618485228, Paperback)

Any talk of The Namesake--Jhumpa Lahiri's follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning debut, Interpreter of Maladies--must begin with a name: Gogol Ganguli. Born to an Indian academic and his wife, Gogol is afflicted from birth with a name that is neither Indian nor American nor even really a first name at all. He is given the name by his father who, before he came to America to study at MIT, was almost killed in a train wreck in India. Rescuers caught sight of the volume of Nikolai Gogol's short stories that he held, and hauled him from the train. Ashoke gives his American-born son the name as a kind of placeholder, and the awkward thing sticks.

Awkwardness is Gogol's birthright. He grows up a bright American boy, goes to Yale, has pretty girlfriends, becomes a successful architect, but like many second-generation immigrants, he can never quite find his place in the world. There's a lovely section where he dates a wealthy, cultured young Manhattan woman who lives with her charming parents. They fold Gogol into their easy, elegant life, but even here he can find no peace and he breaks off the relationship. His mother finally sets him up on a blind date with the daughter of a Bengali friend, and Gogol thinks he has found his match. Moushumi, like Gogol, is at odds with the Indian-American world she inhabits. She has found, however, a circuitous escape: "At Brown, her rebellion had been academic ... she'd pursued a double major in French. Immersing herself in a third language, a third culture, had been her refuge--she approached French, unlike things American or Indian, without guilt, or misgiving, or expectation of any kind." Lahiri documents these quiet rebellions and random longings with great sensitivity. There's no cleverness or showing-off in The Namesake, just beautifully confident storytelling. Gogol's story is neither comedy nor tragedy; it's simply that ordinary, hard-to-get-down-on-paper commodity: real life. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:11 -0400)

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A young man born of Indian parents in America struggles with issues of identity from his teens to his thirties.

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