“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri is not only a brilliant collection of nine stories. Actually, it is a marked debut of Indian-American writer. In her stories she portrays the very corner of her heart, her ideas and ambitions, her anxieties and joys. It is noted that her title story “Interpreter of Maladies” was awarded as the annual Best American Short Stories. In 2000 thus story won received the Pulitzer Prize. It is necessary to outline that all stories tell about intercultural miscommunications and conflicts faced by Indian immigrants and Indian Americans.
As Wallia admitted, Lahiri’s stories are “a showcase of elegant craft”, because they thoroughly examine what it means being a “foreign” . Lahiri’s main heroes are longing to find meaningful connections, though they always face with what they expected: anger, hostile attitude and misunderstanding. Her characters are trying to adapt to unknown world, though not all their efforts are successful. The author shows that, finally, some heroes become homesick, whereas other are still misunderstood and excluded from society and social life.
For example, a story “The Third and Final Continent” tell about a difficult life of young Indian immigrant describing his first experiences in American society. A story “Mrs. Sen’s” is a struggle of a woman who is cut off from her familiar surrounding. “A Temporary Matter” may be considered one of the most touching stories in collection. It tells about a young couple whose marriage is at the dead point. They are noticed that Power Company will be switching off the light during the five days. And the author masterfully illustrates their interactions and, actually, renewal of their marriage .
However, it is necessary to mention the most famous and successful story “Interpreter of Maladies”. Despite the fact that the story is only 27 pages long (it is the longest story in collection), the author brilliantly entails her emotions, anxieties and desire to show that misunderstanding should be struggled. The story is a multi-layered story about a second-generation Indian-American couple. The author tells that a couple along with their three children is willing to visit India. Therefore, they decide to hire an Indian tour-guide in order to visit Sun Temple at Konarak.
Interesting peculiarity of the story is the fact that readers are unaware of guide’s first name and he is called only Mr. Kapasi. The author illustrates that the guide is interested in a young couple, because they look Indians, though they are dressed like Americans. Furthermore, they speak with an American accent, which the guide has heard many times of American television shows . From the very first lines, the author wants to show that their couple’s marriage is failing. Lewis mentions that “Mr.
Kapasi works as a tour guide only on weekends, and has another job during the weekdays as an interpreter in a doctor’s office – translating the Gujarati spoken by some of his patients” . Young wife says that guide’s job as interpreter of maladies is rather romantic and, therefore, should be respected. Actually, the whole story is told from the viewpoint of Mr. Kapasi and, it is underlined that his own marriage is faltering and bickering. Finally, young lady becomes interested in Kapasi: “Her sudden interest in him, an interest she did not express in either her husband or her children, was mildly intoxicating.
When Mr. Kapasi thought once again about how she had said ‘romantic,’ the feeling of intoxication grew” . Thus, the author interprets the feeling of personal interest as malady affecting people. And Mr. Kapasi starts imaging romantic relations with Mina. Mr. Kapasi realizes that he needs the remedy to overcome the malady: “Is it really pain you feel, Mrs. Das, or is it guilt? ”. However, he is only translator of native languages. The author provides romantic ending of the story. Only Mr. Kapasi notice that paper with carefully written address has fallen out of Mina’s handbag: “No one but Mr. Kapasi noticed.
He watched as it rose, carried higher and higher by the breeze, into the trees where the monkeys now sat, solemnly observing the scene below. Mr. Kapasi observed it too, knowing that this was the picture of the Das family he would preserve forever in his mind” .
Brada-Williams, Noelle. Reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies as a Short Story Cycle. MELUS. , 29, 3 (2004): 451-458. Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Lewis, Simon. Lahiri’s Interpretation of Maladies. The Explicator, 59, 4 (2003, April): 16-18. Wallia, C. J. Interpreter of Maladies (Review). Available at