This week, Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest novel, “The Lowland,” was chosen as a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction. The book is about two brothers in post-Independence India, Subhash and Udayan, who are inseparable as children but whose lives take markedly different paths as they reach their twenties. Udayan, the younger and more adventurous of the brothers, becomes a committed follower of the revolutionary Naxalite movement in Calcutta, while the cautious and diligent Subhash leaves India to pursue graduate studies in Rhode Island.
Udayan’s involvement with the Naxalite uprising leads to his death, shattering his family and isolating his young wife, Gauri, who is pregnant with his child. The novel explores the ways in which Udayan’s death transforms the lives of those he left behind—Udayan, Gauri, and Bela, the daughter he never knew. I recently talked to Jhumpa about the novel, and the reading and writing she’s been doing since she finished the book—particularly her experiments with Italian. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.