jhumpa lahiri has been a Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, but is currently teaching in New York. She has published her fiction in various US journals including the New Yorker, and has won several US prizes for her work.
The rituals of traditional Indian domesticityÄcurry-making, hair-vermilioningÄboth buttress the characters of Lahiri's elegant first collection and mark the measure of these fragile people's dissolution. Frequently finding themselves in Cambridge, Mass., or similar but unnamed Eastern seaboard university towns, Lahiri's characters suffer on an intimate level the dislocation and disruption brought on by India's tumultuous political history. Displaced to the States by her husband's appointment as a professor of mathematics, Mrs. Sen (in the same-named story) leaves her expensive and extensive collection of saris folded neatly in the drawer. The two things that sustain her, as the little boy she looks after every afternoon notices, are aerograms from homeÄwritten by family members who so deeply misunderstand the nature of her life that they envy herÄand the fresh fish she buys to remind her of Calcutta. The arranged marriage of "This Blessed House" mismatches the conservative, self-conscious Sanjeev with ebullient, dramatic TwinkleÄa smoker and drinker who wears leopard-print high heels and takes joy in the plastic Christian paraphernalia she discovers in their new house. In "A Real Durwan," the middle-class occupants of a tenement in post-partition Calcutta tolerate the rantings of the stair-sweeper Boori Ma. Delusions of grandeur and lament for what she's lostÄ"such comforts you cannot even dream them"Ägive her an odd, Chekhovian charm but ultimately do not convince her bourgeois audience that she is a desirable fixture in their up-and-coming property. Lahiri's touch in these nine tales is delicate, but her observations remain damningly accurate, and her bittersweet stories are unhampered by nostalgia. Foreign rights sold in England, France and Germany; author tour. (June)
'Lahiri has an extraordinary voice' Salman Rushdie 'Jhumpa Lahiri is the kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person you see and say "Read this!" She's a dazzling storyteller with a distinctive voice, an eye for nuance, an ear for irony. She is one of the finest short story writers I've read.' AMY TAN 'Jhumpa Lahiri's strong, subtle short story collection is a debut to relish.' Guardian