When Delphine Munos went to attend a reading by Jhumpa Lahiri at Southbank, London, on 26th of September 2013, it turned out to be a rather disappointing affair. 

For Kitaab.org

JhumpaThe day before Jhumpa Lahiri’s reading at Southbank, I had just read her recent interview with Salon, in which she declared that she was “feeling finished.” Her new book, The Lowland, had been out for a few days only, along with the news that it had been longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize (she did not win the Prize this year–now we know that). Still, Lahiri’s interview with Salon, and the chiaroscuro photograph of her that went with it, suggested that her mood was not one of celebration.

Upon entering the Purcell Room, I thus felt slightly apprehensive. I did not want Lahiri to feel finished. Lahiri’s previous books — Interpreter of Maladies (1999), The Namesake (2003), and Unaccustomed Earth (2008) — are unique in radiating a quiet form of individuality; they embrace labels, conventions, and traditions, only to shift the perspective around and reveal the double-lining of these categories, of what we’d thought was fixed and solid. In White Noise, one of Don DeLillo’s characters says that “the world is full of abandoned meaning. In the commonplace I find unexpected themes and intensity.” Some might scoff, thinking that there is nothing even remotely “commonplace” about books that deal with the trials of Bengali migration to the U.S, even when depicted at one generational remove.

Devika Bakshi reviews Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland in the Open magazine

TheLowlandI seem to resist each new Lahiri. I have a mini-tantrum in my mind, not wanting to participate in the solemn reception. I have trouble with her short stories for the usual boring reasons—too much of the same Calcutta-to-Cambridge displacement, too many micro-collisions of the old world with the new, too much immigrant texture. But these are non-critiques, discomforts born of overexposure or overcontemplation. They also don’t explain why her longer works—her first novel The Namesake, the three-part novella ‘Hema and Kaushik’ which makes up more than half of Unaccustomed Earth, andThe Lowland—managed to hold my attention and interest as they did, especially since excerpts from the latter two, published as short stories in The New Yorker before their release, did not.

TheLowlandTo classify a novel as rich in texture as The Lowland as simply “immigrant fiction” would be to make the book much smaller than it is, says Gracie Jin in Policymic.

For one thing, the term “immigrant literature” itself is not very useful. “Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from,” Lahiri says in an interview with the New York Times. “If certain books are to be termed immigrant fiction, what do we call the rest?…Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction.” To insist that Lahiri’s books are “immigrant fiction” in a separate category from American fiction is the literary equivalent of asking someone like Lahiri, “Where are you from?” only to hear the tired, over-practiced answer: “Well, my parents were born in…but I’m an American citizen.”