A lot of my reading revolves around plot-driven fiction with a predisposition for police procedurals. Once I am caught in the flow, the narrative will take me away to hopefully a jaw-dropping revelation. I do try to broaden my reading horizons a little, but generally I seldom get surprised anymore when it comes to a writer’s voice and style. This year two writers impressed me – Han Kang and Jhumpa Lahiri. The latter’s debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies moved me in a way I never thought I have it in me.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this stunning debut collection unerringly charts the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. In stories that travel from India to America and back again, Lahiri speaks with universal eloquence to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner.
I think the synopsis at the back of the book got it wrong. This isn’t about the hardship of being an Indian in a foreign country. This is a whole lot more. Lahiri’s prose is never drowning in stylistics but yet it is distinctive, elegiac and elegant. Written with so much sensitivity and bittersweet restraint, I found myself understanding and knowing the flawed characters. Only a beautiful soul could have written something so illuminating of the human soul.
I enjoyed the first story “A Temporary Matter” so much, I re-read it at a slower pace just to immense myself in all the nuances and feels. This is one of those stories which made me want to stand up and shout “Read this now!”. The week I was blessed by the story, I walked into every class, irregardless of whether it was even an English class, I would tell that story in my own words. When I was done I would ask the kids to guess the number of pages of the story and they were all shocked when I told them it was only a mere 22 pages. That’s the magic of Lahiri’s prose; she makes you feel you have lived a lifetime with the characters.
Read this now!