Interpreter of Maladies

Critical reception

Overall the book received generally positive reviews. Interpreter of Maladies garnered universal acclaim from myriad publications. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times praises Lahiri for her writing style, citing her "uncommon elegance and poise." Time applauded the collection for "illuminating the full meaning of brief relationships -- with lovers, family friends, those met in travel".[2] Noelle Brada-Williams argues that the Interpreter of Maladies is not just a collection of random short stories that have common components, but that the stories are combined to create a "short story cycle." She argues that Lahiri intentionally connects the themes and motifs throughout them to produce a cumulative effect on the reader. She goes on to argue that Indian American literature is under-represented and Lahiri deliberately tries to give a diverse view of Indian Americans so as not to brand the group as a whole. Brada-Williams also examines the idea of care and neglect in all of the stories. She points out that this recurring theme is present in all nine short stories and helps to support the notion that Lahiri intended to create a short story cycle.[3]

Ketu H. Katrak reads The Interpreter of Maladies as reflecting the trauma of self-transformation through immigration, which can result in a series of broken identities that form "multiple anchorages." Lahiri's stories show the diasporic struggle to keep hold of culture as characters create new lives in foreign cultures. Relationships, language, rituals, and religion all help these characters maintain their culture in new surroundings even as they build a "hybrid realization" as Asian Americans.[4]

Laura Anh Williams observes the stories as highlighting the frequently omitted female diasporic subject. Through the foods they eat, and the ways they prepare and eat them, the women in these stories utilize foodways to construct their own unique racialized subjectivity and to engender agency. Williams notes the ability of food in literature to function autobiographically, and in fact, Interpreter of Maladies indeed reflects Lahiri’s own family experiences. Lahiri recalls that for her mother, cooking "was her jurisdiction. It was also her secret." For individuals such as Lahiri's' mother, cooking constructs a sense of identity, interrelationship, and home that is simultaneously communal and yet also highly personal.[5][6]

Noelle Brada-Williams of San Jose State University argues that Interpreter of Maladies can be described as a "short story cycle." She notes, "a deeper look reveals the intricate use of pattern and motif to bind the stories together, including recurring themes of the barriers to and opportunities for human communication; community, including marital, extra-marital, and parent-child relationships; and the dichotomy of care and neglect."[7]

Ronny Noor of the University of Texas reviews Interpreter of Maladies and asserts, "The value of these stories -- although some of them are loosely constructed-- lies into fact that they transcend confined borders of immigrant experience to embrace larger age-old issues that are, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'cast into the mould of these new times' redefining America."[8]

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.