“Interpreter of Maladies” is a brilliant piece of literary art, developed by a person, who belongs to the intersection of two great cultures, the cultures, which, even despite the globalization processes we are all so well aware of, still oppose each other, though more and more frequently have to interact with one another. And though the book is written in the United States and is first published in English, it is still an Indian book, as much as Jhumpa Lahiri is an Indian writer. An Indian writer, who is making an attempt to be the voice of his people, those, who are facing the new world and, along with the new world, they are also facing a challenge, whether or not to remain attached to their identity, their national and cultural reality, or, rather, to become assimilated not in the best sense of this world. Such assimilation oftentimes stands for refusal to recognize one’s own nationality, one’s cultural and historical identity.
In general warmly accepted by the critics, the book was heavily commented on particularly by the representatives of other nations, who came to the United States and faced the difficulties the author was writing about. She paid attention to the tiny details which are seldom addressed in the literature. Small talks, minor details, which all together end up composing a very clear and vivid picture. As Noor (ND) puts it, she is redefining America. And this is very precise. Many changes have taken place in the United States, and the place, which modern migrants enter in search of new life is different from what it used to be a hundred years ago. The old definitions became outdated. And the author redefines the updated reality through her stories, through revealing things, which are not often paid close attention to by the people, to whom they are not related directly.
But there is another important focus within the short stories, presented in the book. As reasonably remarked by Brada-Williams (P. 451), Indian-American literature is not very well represented, and so is the culture of Indian Americans, though it is certainly a big and significant group within American society. And what Lahiri effectively does is a significant overview of this social group within American society, and she manages to do this very briefly, as she attempts to display their diversity. This is one of the things, which allow two cultures come to better understand one another, to become more aware of one another’s peculiarities without losing their own ones.
Into the combination of these two major themes of the book one more important theme naturally intertwines. It is the author’s own life experience. She is there to tell the stories, the stories of her people, the stories, through which she herself has been. And Anh Williams (ND) particularly points at the fact, that female experience comes to be expressed very often through cooking and through food itself in Lahiri’s short stories. This is quite natural. Food is certainly one of the important components of national identity of any people. And for Lahiri in her literary experiments this subject is particularly important. She is sentimental regarding this national identity which, she strongly believes, only enriches the culture and any personality. But there are many of those, who prefer to assimilate into the dominating culture by means of getting rid of their own national identity. Lahiri finds it unacceptable. She highly values national identity and makes her own way through to it by means of sharing her stories, stories of a person living on the intersection of the cultures, so significantly different from one another, a person, who values her position at this intersection and who does not wish to give up neither an American, nor an Indian inside of her.
- Anh Williams, Laura. “Foodways and Subjectivity in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies,” MELUS, Saturday, December 22, 2007.
- Brada-Williams, Noelle «Reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” as a Short Story Cycle”. MELUS 29 (3/4, Pedagody, Canon, Context: Toward a Redefinition of Ethnic American Literary Studies): 451–464. Autumn–Winter 2004.
- Noor, Ronny (Autumn–Winter 2004). “Review: Interpreter of Maladies”. World Literature Today 74 (2, English-Language Writing from Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines): 365–366