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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Title:Interpreter of Maladies
Authors:Jhumpa Lahiri
Info:Mariner Books (1999), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 198 pages
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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999)

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English (152)  Catalan (3)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (159)
Showing 1-5 of 152 (next | show all)
We're reading this book of short stories for my neighborhood book club this month. While I generally don't like short stories (I get all wrapped up in the characters just to have their stories end abruptly!), I am loving this book.

My pediatrician has read it and said that I would like her other book, The Namesake, even more. ( )
  jsamaha | Mar 14, 2014 |
Charming short stories about (Asian) Indians, some set in the Boston area and others in India.

The main reason I didn't give this a higher rating is certain aspects of the audiobook edition bugged me. The most annoying one was that there would be short segments (maybe 20 seconds long) of music, but they didn't come in between the stories (which might have been a nice separator) but in the middle, interrupting them. It took me a while to figure out that they must have been at the end and beginning of the CDs; however, I have a digital edition so it was disruptive. ( )
  leslie.98 | Feb 4, 2014 |
As I noted at the beginning of the year, I am going to re-read one book that I remember as a favorite each month this year. Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies was my first re-read. It held up well. I first read this book when I was in graduate school (2001 or so). I didn't remember many details, but I did remember being impressed with Lahiri's style. Since this book, I've read everything that Lahiri has written and consider her one of my favorite authors.

After the re-read, I still think that Lahiri is a master of short stories. Each detail is well chosen. Each phrase is thick with meaning. Consider these two short sentences about a couple whose relationship is struggling: "He refilled the wine in her glass. She thanked him." There is a lot of meaning in the terseness of that second sentence. Or this sentence, about a young man who is entering an arranged marriage: "I flew first to Calcutta, to attend my wedding, and a week later I flew to Boston, to begin my new job." The word "attend" makes the man seem like a guest at his wedding. The fact that the wedding doesn't even get its own sentence is significant too. These are the rewards that you get from a close reading of Lahiri's stories.

Another thing that is noteworthy about Lahiri's stories is that she doesn't shy away from big themes - creating a life in a foreign country, falling in love, becoming strangers, searching for companionship and support. There are themes woven in and out of these stories, and I think that the title of the collection is a clue to one of them. There is a story in the collection that is titled "Interpreter of Maladies" as well. In that story, Mr. Kapasi works as a tour guide on the weekends, but during the week, he is an interpreter for a doctor. He literally is an interpreter of maladies. But I think that we could also see Lahiri as an interpreter of maladies, making sense of losing a child, observing a war, having an affair, and being shut out by others. Each story encapsulates the maladies of everyday life.

However, I'm not sure that this book will end up on my desert island list or my all-time favorites list when all is said and done, and this may be because Lahiri is too good at what she does. She lays human nature bare, and it isn't always pretty. She doesn't have much sympathy for her characters, and as a result, some of them weren't very likeable. She is an interpreter of maladies, and while I appreciate her ability to play that role, I felt sad for many of the characters. This is the kind of book that I appreciate greatly, but that was sometimes difficult to read. I think this may be why I like Lahiri's short stories better than her novels. I was ready to leave the desperation of these characters behind after 25 pages. But that's also why Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. Anyway who can have that impact with a few well-chosen words deserves respect. ( )
2 vote porch_reader | Jan 20, 2014 |
Beautifully crafted, nuanced stories about relationships, families and cultural issues within the East Indian community. Each story deserves a careful reading to appreciate... probably something the average reader won't bother to do. ( )
  mjspear | Dec 2, 2013 |
Beautiful stories of ordinary people, most of them lonely and estranged. The characters, particularly the children, are often endearing. I loved Twinkle in "This Blessed House," but I can understand why her husband found her somewhat irritating. Lahiri explores cultural differences between India and the United States, but without passing judgment on either country. She writes exceptionally well--clear, understated, some humor. ( )
  Bellettres | Nov 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 152 (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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For my parents and for my sister
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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)

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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)

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