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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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8,090166396 (4.09)178
Title:Interpreter of Maladies
Authors:Jhumpa Lahiri
Info:Mariner Books (1999), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 198 pages
Collections:Your library

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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999)

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English (158)  Catalan (3)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (165)
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While I liked this book for the look into the lives of India Indians--especially those who have moved to the US, many of the stories just didn't make sense in the end.

An OK book, but not one that I would recommend. ( )
  carolvanbrocklin | Aug 16, 2014 |
This debut of short stories is stunning! Set in India and America, these are quick glimpses into the lives of people looking for love and acceptance, sweeping between generations and nations. My favorite collection of short stories of all time. Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer. Need I say more? ( )
  Berly | Jul 27, 2014 |
Wow, what a fantastic collection of stories. This is her debut publication and it is very impressive. The stories are mainly about Indians, in the US and in India. I enjoyed that the stories in the US mainly took place in Boston and Cambridge, they seemed more real to me because I knew the places. But the stories in India were equally evocative. The first and last stories were the best, the ones that really caused me stop and ponder at the end. I'll have to go look up The Namesake after this.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
It is difficult to write a review for a collection of stories this good because one would want the review to do justice, but here it goes:

Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. She is truly a master at shedding light on the complex and challenging world of the immigrant (she mostly writes about the immigrant experience). She uses simple language skillfully to unearth and expose the most complex of human feelings and emotions. The characters in her stories are ordinary people and their experiences, struggles, disappointments, moments of joy and happiness are so finely written that it is difficult not to feel empathy. Most of her stories conclude in such a beautiful way that the reader is left under a spell and cannot stop thinking about the characters and story for days.

Among the collection of stories, my favorite is The Third and Final Continent. When I finished reading it, I had goose-bumps. ( )
  Mustafa_O | Jun 11, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.



As far as I know, this is the first anthology of short stories from a single author that I ever read. My copy was given by a friend, who bought it for me after seeing me scanning its pages. This friend also treated me to a cup of coffee afterwards, and I think I should mention that this friend is fond of the name Jhumpa. I fondly call this book just Interpreter, which I read back in college at the temporary library during my long breaks, and I also remember making an unsuccessful attempt at conversation with a stranger who was reading his copy of this book on a jeepney.

I remember a lot of things associated with this book, but how well do I remember the book itself?

The Rhapsody

Three stories that I remember the most in this collection are A Temporary Matter, Sexy, and of course, the carrier single (or story), Interpreter Of Maladies. The first one is about a couple on the climax of their separation, the second one is about this really young boy who is attracted to an older, thirty-ish woman, and the last one is about a local translator who is acting as the tour guide of an American-raised Indian family.

Forgive me, for now I am not so sure about what these three stories are really about.

I’ll try vivisecting the first one since that is the one evoking a lot of images in my head. I remember a childless couple. They are newly married. The house is painted white. There are boxes everywhere. The sun is about to set. Two figures are standing outside, watching the neighbors and the passers-by. The tension is palpable, the silence is grating, the relationship is capable of crumbling with a single flick of the hand.

With the second one, I have the image of a boy, kneeling in front of a low living room table. It is filled with sheets of paper, some clean, some filled with various drawings. There is a drawing of a house. An orchard. A robot with complicated weapons. And a woman. The amber light coming through the window tells us that it is late afternoon. Two women are in the kitchen, fixing themselves cups of coffee while the boy fixes his gaze on them.

And the last one. A typical family in a car. Mother and father arguing about map directions. Two kids quarreling about trivial things at the backseat. A local tour guide taking that all in. Monkeys on the street, roaming freely. Mother is sweating. Wait, I am not sure if the father is there or if there is any father at all. But there must be. Tour guide is interrogated. How far is the next destination? Where is his family? What does he do?

An interpreter of maladies. What? He interprets doctors’ diagnoses and prescriptions in English to the local language for the patients to understand. So there is such a job.

The family in the car is agitated. The mother is headstrong. The father is just a background. The kids are getting out of control. The interpreter is stuck in such a predicament. He is drawn to the woman, her sweat trickling down her skin. The map flies off the open windows. They did not stop to pick it up.

There is still another story that I vaguely remember, but I forgot its title. Its about an old Indian woman who always swept a rotting building. One autumn afternoon, she dies. I cannot recall what happened next, but I always see that woman sweeping the dried leaves with her sturdy broom.

Final Notes

Now that I think about it, this book is about imagery. I think there are at least a dozen stories here, and even though I can only recall a quarter of them, the scenes come to life inside my head with profound clarity. I no longer know what is going on, but the palpability of the stories gives me goosebumps.

My favorite story is A Temporary Matter. I like the tone, the setting, the characters, the premises. It could have been the carrier single (or story), although this is not to say that Interpreter Of Maladies sucked. It’s just a matter of personal reference.

It can also be said that there is a taste of India in the stories. Yes there is, but I guess I deliberately ignored the culture embedded in the stories. I was more drawn to the prose itself, which was disquieting. The stories can hold on to your skin and linger there for as long as you allow it.

A friend said that his favorite author does not like writing short stories because it doesn’t make a lot of sense. This author said that the form of the short story cramps the message that he wishes to deliver.

I also like that author, but with all respect, here is Jhumpa Lahiri. I now have an impulse to reread those three stories. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 158 (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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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.
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!"
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:12 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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