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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Interpreter of Maladies
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on 12 February 2015
Whereas Alice Munroe zooms in on small-town Canadian lives, Lahiri homes in on the Indian community of Canada thus opening up the horizons that often seem so narrow in Munroe. As with the older writer, however, the authorial voice remains kind and generous in the face of her characters' failings. Her humanity shines all the way through these stories.
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on 12 September 2017
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on 17 April 2016
Loved this!
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on 13 December 2009
This is a lovely book of short stories. Even though each story is not long, I became quite engrossed in each one, something that other stories take longer in length to typically accomplish. This book presents the lives of people with origins in India, some stories take place in India, others where Indians emigrated (several times they are in Boston). The stories are reflective, and generally show people at turning points of their lives, or when they are vulnerable. I find it quite amazing that the young author was able to take the view points of people of different ages, male or female. Another message I particularly connected with is that what some may consider to be the everyday can in fact be extraordinary. It's so easy to make fun or scoff at anyone. But for many people, regardless of origin, making it through the day with satisfaction of some sort at day's end is a big deal, often in a very personal way that you don't share with others, except perhaps those closest to you. This book touches on that. Lahiri's prose is beautiful. I loved this book
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on 12 May 2010
There's a trend that runs through most modern fiction about India, and that is of overcooked literary constructs, wordy sentences and cardboard cut-out cliches of people, tastes and smells.

Luckily, Jhumpa Lahiri decided not to rely on any of that. Her writing is simple, understated but yet so powerful. The simplicity doesn't feel contrived at all. It's natural, light and unassuming, but still so satisfying.

My only complaint was the continuous references to food (mustard oil, curry, aubergines, etc) which strayed into the formulaic 'Indian fiction' I mentioned earlier but, to be honest, I only got round to reading this ten years after it was first published in the UK so it could be that all the cliched food stuff came after this was written.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.
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on 21 February 2010
Several of the stories in Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies leave you with a feeling you ought to be left with when reading a short story- like you have been fed a very interesting snippet of a life which is not yours. It is a pleasant read, the stories starting off downbeat and eventually becoming very optimistic, displaying clear comparisons about the impact of the western world on people of Indian descent who experience it. Lahiri is quite good at making characters seem believable, although she seems to be obsessed with academics.

Out of the nine stories, four of them were really great (the first and last being personal favourites), another three were fine reads, and then there were a couple which left you feeling quite short-changed. Some people may be irked by Lahiri's determinedly literal writing style; she goes into detail but keeps the writing frank, which might be off-putting to people who prefer a bit more emotion injected into their writing.
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on 31 August 2004
There are eight heart-warming, revealing, personal human interest stories in this small volume which make it quite clear why Ms Jhumpa Lahiri received the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Her stories are vivid and colorful descriptions of human experiences and life situations. Some are light-hearted and humorous, others serious, some are everyday occurrences; all leave a deep impression on the reader who is a little wiser, kinder and more compassionate after having read them.
The reader will long remember the nights that the electricity went out in a neighborhood where Shoba (female) and Shukumar (male) lived. They became emotionally distant after the still born birth of their baby. On the first night, Shukumar prepared a traditional Indian dinner which the couple had not eaten for a long time, not since they grew apart due to the impact of this personal tragedy. Shoba started a little game, of revealing something to her husband that she said he never knew about her. He was expected to reciprocate. Shukumar began to have more intense feelings of love toward his wife after these revelations began. In fact, even after the electricity was fixed ... they continued their "candle light suppers" and "secret revelations". Shukumar was in for a big surprise one night when Shoba laid before him, one of her 'secret revelations'. Read the story to find out what he discovered ...
In another story, we are introduced to Mr. Pirzada, originally from a region of India, which later was partitioned to become Pakistan. He routinely visited an Indian family for dinner and to watch TV, particularly the news, to learn of developments in his homeland. He was a research botanist at a local university and lived in sparse surroundings. He left his wife and seven daughters in the region of India which broke out in war and afterwards became Pakistan. He won a research grant at a prestigious University in his specialty. During his visits to this family, he brought treats and candies for the little girl. The little girl was raised in the USA and primarily learned only US history. Much later, she discovered the reasons Mr. Pirzada visited and his strong affection for the little girl. She hoarded her treats in a secret box, and carefully doled them out to herself to make them last. The war had ended and Mr. Pirzada's research was competed. He returned to Pakistan and sent the Indian family a letter, explaining that all was well, his wife and daughters survived the war. Life was being built anew. It was only then the little girl realized the importance of these visits to Mr. Pirzada and to herself as well. Watching the news, learning about developments on the otherside of the globe reminded him of his wife and family. Providing the little girl treats had somehow connected him closer to his own little girls. There are other equally enchanting stories in this book which leave the reader filled with a warm glow. All the stories in the book reveal significant details about people's lives with sensitivity and compassion. Each is a slices of human life, which unravels deep emotions that are delicate threads which connect the person or people to their culture and to humanity as a whole. This is an excellent book and receives my highest recommendations. Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
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on 7 December 2015
Both the writing and the plotting are elegant and deceptively simple, and Ms Lahiri's short stories are a (gentle) pleasure to read. The language is unfussy and so are the characters - ordinary people caught in snippets of their ordinary lives. Yet what the characters symbolize is universal and they illuminate the human condition; they stay with you long after you've read them. And Lahiri's observations are superb: fascinating, wonderfully detailed insights into exotic but everyday lives.

The ruthlessly economical language, overall, does risk creating the impression of cold detachment. Jhumpa Lahiri lists the great Alice Munro among her literary heroes and the influence is easy to detect. I for one happen to love Munro therefore liked Lahiri very much indeed.
And it's true, the book has the faults all short stories collections usually suffer from: read in isolation, each story is interesting, even startling. Each story is also masterfully complete and left me satisfied with the amount of detail about each character, and with the ending. But as a whole book, the stories become repetitive. I quickly found the characters to resemble each other throughout, and that I had read the same story too many times, in this book and elsewhere. The affair between a young woman and an older, married man has been done to death, surely, and so has the young or not so young couple falling out of love. Furthermore, here, unfortunately, the unrelenting stylistic simplicity (the very thing which, for me, defines great writing) ends up feeling a little like dullness, and the author's elegant objectivity could push the reader into feeling disengaged and therefore uninterested.

'Interpreter of Maladies' certainly cannot be described as unputdownable; in fact, it is best to put the book down after one, maximum two stories, and come back to it much later. That being said, there are a few stories to which I shall return with delight, for sure.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 May 2011
These short stories, as fine ones should, allows the reader to enter alien lives quickly and succinctly. The people she describes as usually sad and lonely, locked in meaningless relationships and drifting in purpose. While I think that she is too pessimistic about reliationships - they all have their ups and downs and she assumes that we get stuck down - I was very moved by her tales and enjoyed the density of her very very fine prose. This is a writer to watch, and I will return to these stories and watch for longer fiction from her.

Warmly recommended.
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on 10 November 2014
Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of short stories given its coherence by a common subject: the Indian diaspora. The characters, Indian emigrants and their children, balance between American and Indian lifestyles and mores. They are neither completely at home in one nor in the other country, in one nor the other culture. The problem of the arranged marriage, and its lack of conformity with the American model, is particularly brought to the fore. My favourite story, incidentally, was not the Interpreter, but This Blessed House, where the US-born, MIT graduate and successful executive Sanjeev finds himself outclassed by his charismatic wife Tanima, the trigger being the discovery of leftover Christian paraphernalia in the Connecticut house they have just bought. Slick and quickly read, this is an enjoyable collection, holding lessons for anyone who has been uprooted from their home culture.
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