Interpreter of Maladies

Originally published in February 2005, in 2 parts. Book 52 in my first 52 books challenge.
Edited out some stuff unrelated to the review.

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Year published: 1999
Pages: 198
Genre: Literature, short stories
Where got: Second hand

This book had been waiting on my TBR shelf for nearly a year when I finally read it. I had forgotten about it until I visited the Lonely Planet online forum, the Thorn Tree, like I do 2-3 times a week. On the Women’s Branch there was a book discussion going on, and the original poster and several others highly recommended this book. I thought, “Hey, I have this!” and decided there and then that it was about time I read it. Looking over the list of books in the 52 books challenge, I realised I had not read any short stories, so it was perfect to end the challenge with this short story collection. It won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 2000.

Reading progress:
I have been reading 1-2 stories from Interpreter of Maladies per day, and now have four left. The stories belong to the "slice of life" school of short story writing, and describe chapters in the lives of the characters. They are very well written and explore all kinds of issues and feelings. Some are about Indian expatriates in America, others are about Indians in Calcutta.

Finished the last of the short stories today. They are skilfully written glimpses into the lives of ordinary people. Several have in common a sort of longing or wistful nostalgia for something that is never defined in words and which the characters sometimes don’t seem to know themselves. Three out of the nine stories are told in the first person, each of them in a different voice, and the remaining six are 3rd person narratives, each told from the point of view of one person, often someone who doesn’t quite know what is going on with the other character(s). There is subtle humour in some of the stories, while others are serious. Some portray kindness, others cruelty. The unifying theme, apart from most of the characters being Indian, is that of human relations, interactions, cross-purposes and misunderstandings. Out of the stories, the final two are my favourites. Both are funny, although in quite different ways. One, which is a kind of parable, made me smile, the other made me laugh out loud. All in all, I liked all the stories, although of course some are better than others.

Rating: An excellent collection of short stories about Indians and being Indian, home and abroad. 4 stars.

This is the last of the original 52 books reviews. For an unforeseeable number of coming Mondays I will continue to post old reviews from that abandoned blog until I run out of them.


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