Saturday, September 1, 2007

Interpreter of Maladies: Introduction


Today we begin a month-long discussion of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999). Here is some biographical information about the author:

Jhumpa Lahiri was born 1967 in London, England, and raised in Rhode Island. She is a graduate of Barnard College, where she received a B.A. in English literature, and of Boston University, where she received an M.A. in English, M.A. in Creative Writing and M.A. in Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was translated into twenty-nine languages and became a bestseller both in the United States and abroad. In addition to the Pulitzer, it received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award, and a nomination for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Lahiri was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002. The Namesake (2003) is Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel. She lives in New York with her husband and son. (source)

The stories in Interpreter of Maladies feature many recurring themes and situations, including:
-Interactions between Indian immigrants or Indian-Americans and white Americans.
-Various relationships are explored: employer/ employee, husband/wife, married/
unmarried lovers, tour guide/tourists, babysitter/mother/child.
-Precocious boys left in the care of unfamiliar women.
-The home life (and vacation life) of young, dissatisfied Indian or Indian-American
-Pitiful individuals are kept at a distance, either by choice or by marginalization.
-The role of one’s nationality in a foreign or adopted country.

Naturally, the stories in Interpreter are fraught with ideas and tensions. I’ve come up with observations and questions about each story, and will post entries about each story in the same order that they appear in the book. I hope we will draw comparisons and liasons between the stories and analyze the book on the whole. I look forward to your participation!

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