Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri, author of our next selection, Interpreter of Maladies, started her writing career with a flourish, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for this collection of short stories.  Interpreter of Maladies also won the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Addison Metcalf Award.  Lahiri's subsequent publications are The Namesake, 2003, and Unaccustomed Earth, 2008.

Born in London to Bengali parents  in 1967, Lahiri moved to the States and earned degrees from Barnard College and Boston University.  She is married and the mother of two children.  Although she was raised in Rhode Island, the author visited family in Calcutta, India, numerous times. India is the setting for some of her short stories as well as for The Namesake.  Of interest to our group is the fact that the character Mrs. Sen is based on Lahiri's mother who babysat in the family home.  About her mother the author states, "I saw her one way, but imagined that an American child may see her differently, reacting with curiosity, fascination, or fear to the things I took for granted."

In his Time Magazine article "Jhumpa Lahiri: The Quiet Laureate", Lev Grossman notes that "Lahiri's stories are static, but what looks like stasis is really the stillness of enormous forces pushing in opposite directions, barely keeping one another in check."  He further comments that "It's difficult to quote from her stories: they refuse to sum themselves up with a neat final epiphany."   Lahiri states that "Interpreter of Maladies" had to be the title story for this collection because she, as the writer, is like an interpreter of the emotional pain and distance experienced by her characters.

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