"Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri – A Beautiful Collection of Short Stories

Beautiful narration, romantic stories and at times unimaginable circumstances! Short story spun out of day-to-day chores and occurrences. The stories are very well written yet are vague at most of the times they don’t have a set starting or a definite ending, they kind of just end abruptly, leaving the reader in a bit of suspense and to derive lot of conclusions about the future. This is another reason why these stories stay in reader’s mind for long.

The novel begins with “Temporary Matter”, a story of a young Indian couple who drifts apart and hates to be in each other’s presence after they lose their first child. Due to some maintenance job in their residential area, the electricity is cut for an hour in the evenings. First evening the wife begins the game of telling the partner something that they feel, or have done which they have never shared before. This goes on for a couple of days and both of them are able to tell each other things that they had never shared before only to share the most painful and cruel of all secrets on the last day of this temporary arrangement of power cuts.

This short story follows by “interpreter of Maladies” where an Indian guide takes an NRI family to see the Konark (Sun) Temple near Puri and how he starts fantasizing an all-together new life, when the wife shows some interest in his everyday job of interpreter/ translator at a doctor’s clinic. Does his fantasy come true or does it crash right in front of his eyes?

Another interesting tale of this collection is “When Mr.Pirzada came to dine”, a story set during the days when Bangladesh was formed after partition from Pakistan. A story set far away from Indian about an Indian Hindu family, who invite Mr.Pirzada home to dine with them and the elders get so close that they all not just share meals but pray for the welfare of Mr.Pirzada’s family and young daughters in the war trodden Bangladesh until one day, the war comes to an end and Mr.Pirzada manages to go back home. Very beautifully narrated story this is!

Then there was an interesting story “This Blessed House”, in which a newly married couple move into a house only to find out that the house is special and a blessed one. How do they come to realize this? You need to read the book to find out…

All an all an amazing collection, wonderful narration and very simplistic language which puts a reader at ease. Definitely worth a read!

Analysis of a Collection of Short Stories

At the end of the Mechanical Age by Donald Barthelme

The protagonists of the story are Ralph and Ms Davis. The story portrays the contemporary age as being dull and boring. But the mechanical age has got its comfort zones. Ms Davis a widow gets married to Ralph. The marriage ceremony is witnessed by God who makes them take an oath: ‘you wedded husband and life promise to make whatever mutually satisfactory accommodations necessary to reduce tensions and arrive at previously agreed upon goals both parties have harmoniously set in the appropriate planning sessions’. The story is vague and lacks depth and form. It resembles an incongruous abstract painting.

Petition by John Barth

John Barth in the Petition writes an epistle to a renowned person from Thailand who is visiting America for a surgery. Barth is very much drawn to Eastern Mysticism and Eastern religions. He extols the virtues of the foreigner’s history. He also describes the contemporary culture of America in ironic terms. One can’t find the essence of a story in the petition by Barth.

Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon by Marquez

The Cage made by Balthazar is a fascinating and mysterious story about Balthazar who makes a cage and sells it for sixty pesos. As soon as he collects the money, he buys booze for his friends and gets inebriated. His wife waits patiently for him to come home. The story carries a moral about a person who doesn’t know to handle large sums of money.

The Shore by Grillet

The shore by Grillet describes the movement of three children on the beach. Grillet describes the motion of the waves, the flying sea gulls and the movement of the wind. The author has a lurking fascination for the three children, a strange eerie aura of attraction.

Like a Bad Dream by Heinrich Boll

In Like a Bad Dream, the protagonist invites the Zumpens for dinner. He was thinking of the prized contract that the Zumpen would make. But the Zumpens left without saying anything. Bertha the wife of the protagonist told her husband to visit the Zumpens. Mrs. Zumpen gives him an envelope and told him to raise the price as the price quoted by the next bidder was much higher. The story ends with a happy note with the protagonist being awarded the contract.

Axolotl by Cortazar

Axolotl describes a morbid fascination for them by the author. The author becomes ruminative about them. The story is Quixotic and has no meat of a plot.

In Dreams begin responsibilities by Schwartz

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities the author describes about the relationship of the father with the mother. The relationship is a long lasting and pleasing one.

Solipsist by Brown

In the story the Solipsist Walter Jehovah has an imaginary conversation with God. Solipsism is a philosophy that an individual alone exists. In the conversation Jehovah becomes seduced by the grandeur of thought-he alone exists as God.

Gogol’s Wife by Tomanso

In the story Nicolo’s wife is described as a balloon. As years pass by, Nicolo’s disgust for his wife increases.

The End by Beckett

In the End is a story that describes the solitary life of an unknown person. The description portrays his angst. The story has no proper beginning and end and the narrative is haphazard.

The Waiting by Borges

We find Vilari the protagonist settling down in his new lodgings. In the end of the story, a surprising one we find that Vilari is killed by a stranger.

Borges and I

The author differentiates the fictional Borges from the real Borges. The fictional Borges is acclaimed in the news and has a marvel for hourglasses, sixteenth century maps and labyrinths.

Everything and Nothing by Borges

Everything and Nothing by Borges is a fictional rendition of the biography of Shakespeare. He mentions Shakespeare having been initiated into the rite of sexuality by Ann Hathaway. In an imaginary conversation with God, Shakespeare is revealed by God that he is a theater, he is a mask, and he is everything and nothing.