Written by Lauryn Smith
Jhumpa Lahiri is one of the most talented writers I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I have now read her book of fictional short stories “Interpreter of Maladies” three times, and the latest instance has only reinforced my admiration. Lahiri’s writing is beautiful and effortless. Crafting a short story is no easy feat, yet each within the “Interpreter of Maladies” collection is stunning.
The title story involves the Das family, composed of a first-generation American couple of Indian descent and three young children, as they tour India. Lahiri tells the story from the perspective of Mr. Kapasi, the family’s local tour guide and driver. It is soon revealed to the family that Mr. Kapasi also works as an interpreter for a physician who does not speak his patient’s languages. As he is able to speak many of the languages of India, Mr. Kapasi translates people’s woes for them, a skill for which Mrs. Das deems him an “interpreter of maladies.”
Something about the Das family captivates Mr. Kapasi. He finds Mrs. Das particularly enamoring, partly due to of the special attention she pays him relative to her husband and children. Yet as she continues to romanticize Mr. Kapasi's role of medical confidant, she begins to reveal her own unexpected confidences, and for Mr. Kapasi, the situation turns sour.
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