The Namesake is the first novel by author Jhumpa Lahiri, who was born in the UK to Bengali parents and then moved to the USA as a small child. Like her collection of short stories published in 1999, Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake focuses on first-generation Indian immigrants and the issues they and their children face in the United States. The Namesake follows the Ganguli family over the course of thirty years.
The Indian couple, Ashoke and Ashima, name their son Gogol, after the Russian author whose work Ashoke was reading just before he survived a terrible train accident years before. But Gogol rejects his strange-sounding name as a teenager and when he goes to college, he begins to permanently use his "public" name, Nikhil.
Author Jhumpa Lahiri was born Nilanjana Sudeshna, but was called by her nickname "Jhumpa" by her Rhode Island kindergarten teacher because it was easier to pronounce. Lahiri's lifelong mixed feelings about her identity as represented in her Indian name inspired Gogol's struggle in The Namesake.
The Namesake was published in Bengali by Ananda Publishers in Calcutta, India, by the name Samanami.