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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
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Interpreter of Maladies (1999)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (168)  Catalan (3)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (175)
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
I remember the buzz about this book when it came out a decade ago, but somehow never got around to reading it until yesterday/today. I really enjoyed these stories. ( )
1 vote Amelia_Smith | May 2, 2015 |
I first read this several years ago, around the same time as I read The Namesake. It had been long enough so that I didn't remember the stories very well, and I enjoyed them a second time.

In "A Temporary Matter," a scheduled power outage in the evenings gives a married couple a chance to bond again after the stillbirth of their child, revealing secrets to each other that both bring them together and push them apart.

"Something happened when the house was dark. They were able to talk to each other again." (19)

"When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine": A young girl, Lilia, becomes used to the presence of Mr. Pirzada, a friend of her parents, who comes to watch the news from Dacca, where his wife and children still live. She begins to grasp the concept of distance and the impact of world events on those close to her.

"Interpreter of Maladies": Mr. Kapasi, a tour guide and driver develops a crush on one of his passengers, Mrs. Das, who praises him for his weekday work as a doctor's interpreter. She tells him that her youngest son isn't her husband's.

"Mr. Kapasi had never thought of his job in such complimentary terms. To him it was a thankless occupation. He found nothing noble in interpreting people's maladies..." (51)

"A Real Durwan": An older woman, Boori Ma, sweeps the stairwell of a building. The residents tolerate her stories of past riches, but when a theft occurs, they throw her out.

"Sexy": Miranda has an affair with a married Indian man.

"Mrs. Sen's": Eleven-year-old Eliot goes to Mrs. Sen's house after school. Through Eliot's eyes, the reader comprehends Mrs. Sen's loneliness and isolation; her husband works at the university, she cannot drive, and her family lives far away.

"This Blessed House": Sanjeev and Twinkle discover Christian icons throughout their new house, and Twinkle insists on displaying them on the mantelpiece. When Sanjeev invites his friends and co-workers to a housewarming party, they are charmed by Twinkle, even as Sanjeev wonders how well he knows his new wife.

"The Treatment of Bibi Haldar": Bibi Haldar has an epilepsy-like condition that has prevented her from leading a normal life; no treatment has worked. She is tolerated by her relatives and treated kindly but distantly by the others in the same apartment building (the collective "we"), but when her cousin's wife becomes pregnant, she kicks Bibi out. The "treatment" that ultimately works is more or less what Bibi craved all along.

"The Third and Final Continent": Narrated in the first person by a practical Indian man who has emigrated from India to the U.S., this story is about his initial, solo assimilation, and the second assimilation when his wife comes to join him.

"Flashing sirens heralded endless emergencies, and a fleet of buses rumbled past, their doors opening and closing with a powerful hiss, throughout the night." (175) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 30, 2015 |
Thanks Uday for recommending this little treasure. I've two stories left - I couldn't put it down last night until my eyes closed on me against my will!

Ok done. I love that the author helps those of us who haven't the extreme emigration experiences understand a little bit what it's like to be so far from home. At least one character hasn't left her homeland, but even she doesn't fit in because of her mental illness. So, someone like me, raised in green rural northwest Wisconsin and now living in the desert in a small city in Nevada, can empathize and even learn from the experiences of the people in the stories.

Of course, Lahiri says it ever so much better than I can. So, stop reading reviews and just read this slim gem! ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
A common flaw of short stories is their tendency to overcompensate their brevity by weighing down every phrase and action with meaning and subtext, a flaw which was largely sidestepped by this understated collection. The collection interprets a range of maladies which can be described under an umbrella term as the "immigrant experience". More precisely, it explores what it means to be isolated - all the different forms of isolations - by purposely placing its characters in a state of disassociation from their surroundings and community. For example, in the first story, the isolation from the outside community caused by the blackouts shone a light on the palpable isolation between the grieving couple, creating an intimate - or isolated - space where they could obliquely share their anguish.

Throughout the collection, this interplay between the different types of isolations manages to feel subtle and not overdone. The language is simple, the subtext subtle but clear, the culture evocative - not necessarily Indian, it could have been any culture -, the catalystic situation natural, the people everyday. Mrs Croft alone raises the novel to exceptional heights: splendid! ( )
  kitzyl | Mar 31, 2015 |
This is a beautiful collection of short stories. Each one is nearly perfect. Lahiri writes characters very well, and her stories provide a wonderful insight into Indian and Indian immigrant culture. If there is a theme, it seems to be about loss or disappointed expectations, particularly in marriage and family relationships. Even though some of the stories were sad, the tone never came across as bleak or hopeless. In that way, they rang very true to life for me.

Read for book club (2015). ( )
1 vote sturlington | Mar 15, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 168 (next | show all)
In this accomplished collection of stories, Jhumpa Lahiri traces the lives of people on two continents -- North America and India -- and in doing so announces herself as a wonderfully distinctive new voice. Indeed, Ms. Lahiri's prose is so eloquent and assured that the reader easily forgets that ''Interpreter of Maladies'' is a young writer's first book.
 

» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jhumpa Lahiriprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooley, StevenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dahlström, EvaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emeis, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayden, Melissasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Overholtzer, RobertDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sjöstrand, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For my parents and for my sister
First words
The notice informed them that it was a temporary matter: for five days their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at eight P.M.
Quotations
While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and I am certainly not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.
As stunned as I was, I knew what I had to say. With no hesitation at all, I cried out, "Splendid!"
In fact, the only thing that appeared three-dimensional about Boori Ma was her voice: brittle with sorrows, as tart as curds, and shrill enough to grate meat from a coconut.
He wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Das were a bad match, just as he and his wife were. Perhapts they, too, had little in common apart from three children and a decade of their lives. The signs he recognized from his own marriage were there--the bickering, the indifference, the protracted silences.
In its own way this correspondence would fulfill his dream, of serving as an interpreter between nations.
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Book description
CONTENTS:
A Temporary Matter -- When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine -- Interpreter of Maladies -- A Real Durwan -- Sexy -- This Blessed House -- The Treatment of Bibi Haldar -- The Third and Final Continent
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 039592720X, Paperback)

Mr. Kapasi, the protagonist of Jhumpa Lahiri's title story, would certainly have his work cut out for him if he were forced to interpret the maladies of all the characters in this eloquent debut collection. Take, for example, Shoba and Shukumar, the young couple in "A Temporary Matter" whose marriage is crumbling in the wake of a stillborn child. Or Miranda in "Sexy," who is involved in a hopeless affair with a married man. But Mr. Kapasi has problems enough of his own; in addition to his regular job working as an interpreter for a doctor who does not speak his patients' language, he also drives tourists to local sites of interest. His fare on this particular day is Mr. and Mrs. Das--first-generation Americans of Indian descent--and their children. During the course of the afternoon, Mr. Kapasi becomes enamored of Mrs. Das and then becomes her unwilling confidant when she reads too much into his profession. "I told you because of your talents," she informs him after divulging a startling secret.
I'm tired of feeling so terrible all the time. Eight years, Mr. Kapasi, I've been in pain eight years. I was hoping you could help me feel better; say the right thing. Suggest some kind of remedy.
Of course, Mr. Kapasi has no cure for what ails Mrs. Das--or himself. Lahiri's subtle, bittersweet ending is characteristic of the collection as a whole. Some of these nine tales are set in India, others in the United States, and most concern characters of Indian heritage. Yet the situations Lahiri's people face, from unhappy marriages to civil war, transcend ethnicity. As the narrator of the last story, "The Third and Final Continent," comments: "There are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept." In that single line Jhumpa Lahiri sums up a universal experience, one that applies to all who have grown up, left home, fallen in or out of love, and, above all, experienced what it means to be a foreigner, even within one's own family. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:53 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Stories about Indians in India and America. The story, A Temporary Matter, is on mixed marriage, Mrs. Sen's is on the adaptation of an immigrant to the U.S., and in the title story an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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