JHUMPA LAHIRI: The best books to read from the Author's shelf
“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”- Patrick Rothfuss
As a platform that thrives and takes pride in promulgating empowering stories for our loyal readers like y’all, we totally resonate with this quote. Be it fiction or non-fiction, don’t they give us immense questions to brood over, taking us on a fantasy ride? Rather, a rollercoaster of emotions; you laugh and show happiness at the character’s triumphs and joyous moments, and cry with them when they are facing adversities. Cinema and other brilliant works of art will be produced continuously, but according to us, nothing satisfies the soul like a good old story!
And, if we completely get immersed in this parallel life of several enchanting, yet life-like characters, the authors have succeeded at their job of transporting us into an alternate world. Isn’t the lingering feeling after simply splendid? Now, now! One such storyteller who wondrously depicts real-life stories is the uber-talented Indo-American author, Jhumpa Lahiri. Known for her short stories, novels and essays in English and Italian, she has been awarded two very prestigious literary recognitions- the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and PEN/Hemingway Award. She has a pensive ability to explore the intricacies of her various characters, throwing light on their varied shades-especially, their grey areas. As individuals of the 21st century, don’t we all prefer brutal honesty and authenticity? Isn’t the notion of a “happily ever after” completely passé in these times, lassies?
ABOUT THIS PROLIFIC BESTSELLING AUTHOR: JHUMPA LAHIRI
Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories are an extension of her life trajectory- she very eloquently revolves her characters around a universal theme of being considered an outsider in a foreign country. Harnessing a thin balance between being burlesque and thought-provoking, her words have a great quality of being enjoyed by all audiences. Don’t you beauties think she has found acceptance on unchartered territories through the power of words crossing borders? Reflecting on that note, let’s understand, what makes her, her!
Born in London to Bengali parents, her family moved to the United States when she was three years old. However, her folks ensured that they were closely associated with their East Indian roots infusing pride in her cultural heritage. Unsurprisingly, her stories too illuminate the immigrant, or as we famously call the NRI accounts faced abroad.
Highly educated in the field of literature, her education led her to broaden her horizons and write for a number of publications. It’s probably this virtue that encouraged her to master and write a well-appreciated Italian novel as well- Dove mi trovo. In a wonderful twist of fate, she now lives in Rome along with her husband and two children. Don’t her inter-cultural and multifaceted adventures seem super interesting? Read on to know about some of her best works.
THE JHUMPA LAHIRI EDITION: SOME OF THE BEST WORKS WRITTEN BY THE CRITIQUE FAVOURITE LITERATI
Crediting Kolkata as an “absent presence” in her life, Jhumpa Lahiri quoted in one of her interviews, “The outsider’s experience is my experience. Now I am used to it. I accept it.” Showcasing several of these nuanced affairs, she creates quite a picture. Are you dearies looking to pick up a novel instead of indulging in the mundane Netflix and chill sessions, presently? Hmm, trust us when we say that you must definitely go on this delectable, yet imaginative voyage with her. You won’t be disappointed. If we’ve convinced you enough, then these are some of our recommended picks to get immersed into.
1.WHEREABOUTS: Her latest novel to be published after a gap of eight years in April, 2021, ‘Whereabouts’ is about an Italian woman who lives a life of solitude. Jhumpa Lahiri very beautifully explores the themes of exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement. Wavering between inactivity and movement, the protagonist longs to form a balance between the need for belonging and refusal to forming everlasting relationships. On her last day in her hometown before she leaves for “across the border” to pursue a long fellowship, she stumbles upon a revelation through an eerie sight. Noticing a woman dressed just like her who is striding on her own makes her realize the unfamiliarity that she will be stepping into. Having an epiphany, “I’m me and someone else”, the double-ness or her life’s paradox comes through the letter and spirit of this novel. Sometimes it just takes someone else to see things in their entirety, right? A deeply contemplative piece, it has been translated from her Italian novel by Lahiri herself.
2. INTERPRETER OF MALADIES: An award-winning constellation of nine short stories, this book was released in 1999. Taking us from the past to the present; old into the new; the titular short story revolves around the Das family, consisting of an immigrated American couple of Indian ethnicity, with three young children as they visit India. Doesn’t this scene remind us of our cousins abroad who come visit us once in many years? Mr. Kapasi, their tour guide and driver, who works as an Interpreter for a physician, and touted as the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, soon uncovers some grave truths during a rendezvous with Mrs. Das, making him change his opinions and feelings. Holding a deeper significance the essence is unveiled slowly, making us question his judgement, or interpretive abilities.
Mellow and poignant in its tone, it really grasps you in a web of emotions. While this is less “Indian”, ‘A Temporary Matter’ is about a Bengali couple, Shobha and Shree Kumar, who have drifted apart due to the loss of their baby. It just takes a power cut lasting a few days to mend their relationship. Isn’t the power cut more of a metaphor for this rough patch? Get your literary caps on you whizzes! In yet another, scintillating story, ‘When Mr. Pirzada came to dine’ we get the West Bengal sniffs through influences of the Tagore literature. Narrated by a young girl, this story depicts the language and cultural differences between the bordering countries, India and Pakistan. Emanating a vintage charm, this emotional narrative of a man away from home, longing for the safety of and reunion with his family is heart-wrenching, yet endearing at the same time. Well, well! If we have piqued your interest, we suggest you get hold of this collection, find yourself a cozy spot, and get lost in the narrative of its other six short stories as well. This was just the trailer, folks!
3. THE NAMESAKE: Doesn’t this name ring a bell, you beauties? Yes, you probably guessed it right! This artistic triumph by Jhumpa Lahiri was adapted into a film starring stalwarts, the late Irfan Khan and Tabu, helmed by Mira Nair in 2007. It follows the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Ganguli, an Indian couple who married through the arranged setup and relocated to America. Delicately carving their identities and position in this foreign land, this story honestly portrays the cultural conflicts of their children, along with the family’s tribulations. Highlighting the displacement felt, this novel throws light on shifting borders and cultures while trying to find your foothold. A more discerning identity crisis, perhaps, it excellently touches upon the themes of balance between change and the yearning for stability and dependability; the universality of ‘foreignness’ (an uncanny way of bringing this demographic together), while some underlying references hint at this transition.
4. THE LOWLAND: Set across many years, this story centers around two ‘thick as thieves’ brothers, who are fifteen months apart, named Subhash and Udayan, respectively. Constituted of residents of a middle-class Kolkata neighbourhood, this post-partition district has a ‘Lowland’,which forms the essence of the story, either through its actuality or omnipresence. Growing up in the 1960’s, Udayan joins the radical Naxalite movement, while Subhash decides to pursue research in America. Your choices reflect your stance in life, and so is it with these two brothers. Going against society, Udayan decides to marry for love, while Subhash who has adapted to the Western culture has an affair with a married woman.
The distance between the brothers is literal and symbolic, but a tragedy brings Subash back to his homeland. With his life uprooted within a span of a short period of time, he finds himself housing his murdered brother’s widow and unborn child. Taking us through the trials and tribulations of his new life, he remains a constant presence in their daughter’s life, while his wife chooses her education and freedom. Years later he finds true love. Through it all, however, ‘The Lowland’ near the family home is reminisced about and has endured the transformation from love to sacrilege, upheaval and the changing times. A must-read, we reckon!
Whether you’re a bookworm or not, Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories will strike a promising chord with you irrespective of whether you have lived through those experiences. Transposing us to be one with her characters, she manages to stun us every time with her enigmatic expression. And, the thing we love most about it is that the women in her novels are strong individuals, who pay heed to their preferences as well. That she draws references from her life is not a novel discovery, but this knowledge in itself makes her stories very charming. There’s not one single hero, but all the dramatis personae leave an impeccable mark on us.
To sign off, you will definitely be a changed person after reading her intrepid, outstripping tales! And if you dearies do decide to soak yourselves in her world, we’re sure that you will be completely rapt and how! Instead of a Netflix binge, maybe we could try a Lahiri marathon (yes, we’re being super ambitious). Hahah, it’s certainly a good afterthought, you Bellisimas!