interpreter of maladies

Lahiri, Jhumpa. interpreter of maladies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

“Interpreter of Maladies” is all about human nature and how perceptions can change in the blink of an eye. Mr. Kapasi is a Indian tour guide with a second job as a interpreter for a medical center. While chauffeuring a family of Americans around he shares this information and explains that since he is multilingual he is able to interpret the patient’s malady to the doctor and the doctor’s remedy back to the patient. He has never thought about this occupation as being anything more than that until the mother of the family compliments him and shows an interest in his work. Mr Kapasi is at first flattered and his head soon fills with a fantasy involving the mother. This fantasy grows until she shares a terrible secret with him. Everything changes. The woman he once admired and fantasized about is nothing more than a dumb tourist.

“A Temporary Matter” is such a sad story! Plain and simple it’s about a marriage. Their relationship is young, only four years old, but it is damaged by the stillbirth of their first child. As with any couple devastated by the loss of a child, they each handle the tragedy differently. The one thing they have in common is a mutual pulling away from one another. When the electric company sends notice that their electricity will be cut for one hour each night for five days they look forward to the darkness; of not being able to see one another. It’s during this dark period that secrets come out and it seems like their relationship can be turned around.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month

Author fact: Lahiri has also written a book, The Namesake, that was made into a movie.

Book trivia: Interpreter of Maladies has won a Pulitzer, a PEN/Hemingway, a New Yorker Debut and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 103).

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