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Interpreting Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

An Interpreter of Maladies is not, as Mrs. Das thinks (and as the reader of Jhumpa Lahiri's stories may initially be thinking, too), a medical doctor or a psychologist; someone who interprets the origin and meaning of his patients' various illnesses and malaises and then prescribes the adequate treatment. No: an Interpreter of Maladies is someone who helps them communicate, who speaks the patients' language and is therefore able to translate their personal representation of their feelings to the listener who then, in turn, must come up with his own interpretation of those representations.

 

And like Mr. Kapasi, the improbable hero of this collection's title story, Ms. Lahiri merely gives an account of her characters' feelings and situation in life at one particular moment – she rarely judges them, nor does she strive to tell the entire story of their lives; even where, as in "The Third and Final Continent," the narrative covers several decades, it is truly only one brief but crucial period which is important. No sledgehammer is being wielded; Lahiri's tone is subtle, subdued – like any good interpreter, she talks in a low voice, just loud enough for her listener/reader to understand; and you have to want to listen to her. If you expect her to shout, to force her account on you in bullet points and bold strikes, you will miss the many finer nuances in between.

 

Read more on my own website, ThemisAthena.info.

 

Preview also cross-posted on Leafmarks.

Source: http://www.themisathena.info/literature/lahiri1.html#InterpreterofMaladies