Another interpreter of diaspora

One of the brightest new stars in the American literary firmament is Jhumpa Lahiri, author of a recently published collection of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies. The US-born Lahiri has been marketed by her publisher, Houghton Mifflin, as another young South Asian writer, but the label, in her case, belies the content.

The characters and  settings in Lahiri's best stories are American, and they resonate as richly textured domestic portraits of alienation and loss. She includes details about Indian food, clothes and cultural taboos, but uses them only where they are relevant to a reader's understanding of the characters. In " A Temporary Matter", for example, a young Indian-American couple struggle under the strain of losing a child and have nearly lost the ability to communicate with each other. One day, the husband uses his wife's Indian cookbook to make her a special meal of rogan josh during a power cut. But instead of conjuring the exotic magic of a mistress of spices, the meal sets the stage for an excavation of emotional secrets.

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Himal Southasian