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Judging a cover by its text

By Mini Kapoor

Jhumpa Lahiri explains why the first time she sees a cover for her books is always upsetting

It never fails to shock or thrill me when I see a new, re-jacketed edition of a favourite book. And in this age of rapid re-jacketing, with publishers more keenly aware of the power of cover design to attract the reader to a book and perhaps away from its e-book variant, it’s a trick that keeps giving. Chancing upon a new cover for a much-read book in a bookshop or a library will stop me in my tracks to at least browse for a few minutes, making fresh acquaintance with a familiar text. Sometimes it’ll invite a deeper, even different reading of the book; at other times it’ll disorient me enough to go right back to the original edition; and, of course, most times it will be just a few minutes meditatively spent but without changing my longer engagement with the book. All told, it’s yet another nudge to consider a little appreciated aspect of the reading experience, the book cover. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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On Obama’s book list, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland

Obama’s eclectic book list mirrors his journey

TheLowlandOne of Obama’s more intriguing choices was Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Lowland,” about two brothers from India, one who comes to build a new life in America and the other who becomes ensnared in politics back home. Lahiri said Obama may relate to his own conflicting paths as the son of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas.

“He has a sort of double vision of America as I do, as many people do, many people who have been both brought up and bred within America but also have a different perspective of the country,” Lahiri said. “In a sense, part of him comes from outside America, and he embodies both that contradiction and that richness.”

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Jhumpa Lahiri turns her gaze to history

jhumpa_lahiri-620x412Salil Tripathi on Lahiri’s writing in The Caravan

Aamer Hussein, a writer of elegant short stories, who teaches and critiques literature told me that he finds Lahiri “readable but not memorable”. “When her first collection came out,” he said, “I remember an American academic commenting that her work was ‘never less than competent, and rarely more than competent.’ Later, in a radio programme I was on, an American editor said that while her fiction was technically conservative, it won the Pulitzer because it was covering entirely new ground—the migrant world of educated Indians in the States.” Other critics have said that more forcefully, placing upon her the responsibility of speaking “on behalf of” the minority woman, if such a generalisation is even possible.

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Ogling Jhumpa Lahiri at Southbank

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. Continue reading

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Unknown Territory: An interview with Jhumpa Lahiri

JhumpaAn interview with the author of The Lowland in The New Yorker

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.

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“The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri: Two Reviews by Urmila Seshagiri & Anita Felicelli

TheLowlandLARB offers two reviews of Lahiri’s novel

The Lowland is a breathtaking achievement, taking into account four generations and almost 70 years. While certain readers, myself included, may wish for more of Udayan’s perspective — we so infrequently see anything of India’s dissenters or revolutionaries in realistic literary fiction — it is hard to imagine the thorough application of Lahiri’s delicate, observant, American prose to a charismatic revolutionary abroad. Or even to certain conventional axes of Indian social conflict — caste, religion, language. We never learn what the brothers’ caste is, for example, even though caste in the 1960s was a preoccupation and serious point of division (and is still in some circles).

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Booker prize 2013: why Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland should win – The Guardian video

Nosheen Iqbal argues that Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland should win this year’s Man Booker prize. The shortlisted novel centres on two brothers from 1960s Calcutta whose futures remain linked even after their life choices sweep them to different continents and fates. The winner of the Booker prize is announced on 15 October

Watch it here

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Saccharine Edges

TheLowlandGlobal Booker, global writer and universal literature. Peace out, says Anuradha Marwah in the Outlook

A few days after being shortlisted for the Man Booker, which was until this year reserved for writers from countries in the Commonwealth, Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri also made it to the shortlist of the American National Book Award. If she were to win both, The Lowland would become the best book written in the English speaking world in 2013 and Lahiri would be consecrated as the conqueror of this entire territory of English literature. You and I in India will weep with emotion and invoke Tagore and the Bengali legacy. The Americans will grin condescendingly because it is the American Dream to conquer and those who succeed are American by default—call a rose by any name! And for the Brits, who bothers about erstwhile colonisers anymore?

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Review: The Lowland is exhausting

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. Continue reading

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Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ shows immigrant literature is obsolete

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.” Continue reading