Pulitzer-winning, scintillating studies in yearning and exile from a Bengali Bostonian woman of immense promise.
A couple exchange unprecedented confessions during nightly blackouts in their Boston apartment as they struggle to cope with a heartbreaking loss; a student arrives in new lodgings in a mystifying new land and, while he awaits the arrival of his arranged-marriage wife from Bengal, he finds his first bearings with the aid of the curious evening rituals that his centenarian landlady orchestrates; a schoolboy looks on while his childminder finds that the smallest dislocation can unbalance her new American life all too easily and send her spiralling into nostalgia for her homeland…
Jhumpa Lahiri’s prose is beautifully measured, subtle and sober, and she is a writer who leaves a lot unsaid, but this work is rich in observational detail, evocative of the yearnings of the exile (mostly Indians in Boston here), and full of emotional pull and reverberation.
‘Lahiri has an extraordinary voice’
‘Jhumpa Lahiri is the kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person you see and say
She’s a dazzling storyteller with a distinctive voice, an eye for nuance, an ear for irony. She is one of the finest short story writers I’ve read.’
‘Jhumpa Lahiri’s strong, subtle short story collection is a debut to relish.’
About the author
jhumpa lahiri has been a Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, but is currently teaching in New York. She has published her fiction in various US journals including the New Yorker, and has won several US prizes for her work.
The rituals of traditional Indian domesticity--curry-making, hair-vermilioning--both buttress the characters of Lahiri's elegant first collection and mark the measure of these fragile people's dissolution. Frequently finding themselves in Cambridge, Mass., or similar but unnamed Eastern seaboard university towns, Lahiri's characters suffer on an intimate level the dislocation and disruption brought on by India's tumultuous political history. Displaced to the States by her husband's appointment as a professor of mathematics, Mrs. Sen (in the same-named story) leaves her expensive and extensive collection of saris folded neatly in the drawer. The two things that sustain her, as the little boy she looks after every afternoon notices, are aerograms from home--written by family members who so deeply misunderstand the nature of her life that they envy her--and the fresh fish she buys to remind her of Calcutta. The arranged marriage of "This Blessed House" mismatches the conservative, self-conscious Sanjeev with ebullient, dramatic Twinkle--a smoker and drinker who wears leopard-print high heels and takes joy in the plastic Christian paraphernalia she discovers in their new house. In "A Real Durwan," the middle-class occupants of a tenement in post-partition Calcutta tolerate the rantings of the stair-sweeper Boori Ma. Delusions of grandeur and lament for what she's lost--"such comforts you cannot even dream them"--give her an odd, Chekhovian charm but ultimately do not convince her bourgeois audience that she is a desirable fixture in their up-and-coming property. Lahiri's touch in these nine tales is delicate, but her observations remain damningly accurate, and her bittersweet stories are unhampered by nostalgia. Foreign rights sold in England, France and Germany; author tour.