January 17, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Jhumpa Lahiri on Unaccustomed Earth

1 min read

JhumpaThe author explains how months or years can elapse between a story’s conception and its construction (The Guardian Book Club)

Many of the stories were abandoned for several years before I returned to them. The first to be conceived, and among the last to be written, was “Once in a Lifetime”. I began working with the characters and situation – two families living for a time under the same roof – in 1998, the year before my first collection, Interpreter of Maladies, was published. Initially I thought the ingredients of the story might yield a novel. But after introducing the premise, and establishing a tension between Kaushik and Hema, the two principal characters, I was unable to move forward. The story was narrated in the third person then, and though the characters felt alive and specific to me, the structure was feeble and the narration felt flat, without heat or dimension. I set it aside and went on to draft The Namesake, my first novel.

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