Jhumpa Lahiri is an Indian-American author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000.
Born in London to parents from West Bengal, Lahiri’s family moved to the US when she was just two years old. After spending her childhood in Rhode Island, Lahiri attended Barnard College, where she received a B.A. in English literature. Following this, she pursued graduate coursework at Boston University, where she received a MFA in Creative Writing, a MA in Comparative Literature, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies.
In 1999, Lahiri released her first major work, a short story collection titled, Interpreter of Maladies. The text went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Following the success of her debut collection, Lahiri published novels, both of which received critical acclaim: The Namesake (2003) and Unaccustomed Earth (2008). Most recently, Lahiri published her fourth major work, titled, The Lowland.
Lahiri’s work tends to center on the Indian-American experience, often making a study of cross-culturalism across a wide range of narratives. Her work has been praised for its authentic portraits of diasporic communities, in the US and abroad.
Interpreter of Maladies, 1999
The Namesake, 2003
Unaccostomed Earth, 2008
The Lowland, 2013
Interpreter of Maladies, “This Blessed House.”
Sanjeev felt knots forming at the back of his neck. He felt dizzy. He needed to lie down. He walked toward the bedroom, but stopped short when he saw Twinkle’s shoes facing him in the doorway. He thought of her slipping them on her feet. But instead of feeling irritated, as he had ever since they moved into the house together, he felt a pang of anticipation at the thought of her rushing unsteadily down the winding staircase in them, scratching the floor a bit in her path. The pang intensified as he thought of her running to the bathroom to brighten her lipstick, and eventually rushing to get people their coats, and finally rushing to the cherry-wood table when the last guest had left, to begin opening their housewarming presents. It was the same pang he used to feel before they were married, when he would hang up the phone after one of their conversations, or when he would drive back from the airport, wondering which ascending plane in the sky was hers.
The Lowland, “Brotherly Love” 2013
Since childhood, Subhash had been cautious. His mother never had to run after him. He kept her company, watching as she cooked or sewed.
While Subhash stayed in clear view, Udayan was disappearing: even in their two-room house, when he was a boy, he hid compulsively, under the bed, behind the doors, in the crate where winter quilts were stored.
He played this game without announcing it, spontaneously vanishing, sneaking into the back garden, climbing into a tree, forcing their mother, when she called and he did not answer, to stop what she was doing. As she looked for him, as she humored him and called his name, Subhash saw the momentary panic in her face, that perhaps she would not find him.
When they were old enough, when they were permitted to leave the house, they were told not to lose sight of each other. Together they wandered down the winding lanes of the enclave, across the lowland, to the playing field, where they sometimes met up with other boys. They went to the mosque at the corner, to sit on the cool of its marble steps, listening to a football game on someone’s shortwave.
Eventually, they were allowed to leave the enclave and to enter the greater city. To board trams and buses by themselves. They began to linger outside Technicians’ Studio, where Bengali film stars spent their days. They caught sight of the actors and actresses as they emerged from their dressing rooms or stepped into waiting cars. Udayan was the one brave enough to ask them for autographs. He was blind to self-constraints, like an animal incapable of perceiving certain colors.
In New York Magazine: “I’m the least experimental writer,” she says. “The idea of trying things just for the sake of pushing the envelope, that’s never really interested me.”
In The New Yorker: “Well, I was told many years ago, when I was studying writing at B.U., that triangles are very helpful in building a story, because the triangle is a stable thing, but it’s not a square. There’s something about it that creates drama. But I was definitely aware of a series of triangles, absolutely, and they do play out throughout [The Lowland]. I think they’re wonderful in terms of creating tension. I think so much of literature, so many novels and stories, have that tension, of two people wanting something, and what is the thing they want, or who is the person they want? It can go in so many different directions. I often think the novel is, among other things, very much about what a family is, and what a family means. Though a family can be any number of people, it has to consist of three people if you think of a family having at least two generations. So that’s another essential element I’m exploring.”