The Namesake

The Namesake❮Epub❯ ➝ The Namesake Author Jhumpa Lahiri – The NamesakeIMDb Starting the opening credits with the characters of the actors names replaced with American characters was witty Everyday has been a gift, Gogol, Irrfan Khan Ashok tells Kal Penn Gogo The NamesakeIMDb Starting the opening credits with the characters of the actors names replaced with American characters was witty Everyday has been a gift, Gogol, Irrfan Khan Ashok tells Kal Penn Gogol in the movie, but truly, The Namesake is a wonderful gift for its audience, especially since I saw this moviedays before my birthday Un nom pour un autre WikipdiaTraduction namesake franais Dictionnaire anglais Reverso This modernstar hotel overlooks the Isola Bella WWF Nature Reserve and its namesake island Cet hteltoiles moderne surplombe la rserve WWF d Isola Bella et l le du mme nom The Namesake river passes under this highway and exits through Lock SLa rivire du mme nom, passe sous cette route et sort par verrouillage Snamesake English French Dictionary WordReference namesake n noun Refers to person, place, thing, quality, etc sb with same name homonyme nm nom masculin s utilise avec les articles le, l devant une voyelle ou un h muet , un Ex garon nm On dira le garon ou un garon Michael Jordan is my namesake, but, sadly, I m nothing like him Michael Jordan est mon homonyme, mais malheureusement, je ne lui NAMESAKE signification, dfinition dans le dictionnairea person or thing with the same name as another person or thing Dfinition de namesake depuis le Dictionnaire Cambridge Academic Content Cambridge University Press The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri Goodreads The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri The Namesakeis the first novel by American author Jhumpa Lahiri It was originally a novel published in The New Yorker and was later expanded to a full length novel It explores many of the same emotional and cultural themes as her Pulitzer Prize winning short story collection Interpreter of Maladies The Namesake Study Guide SparkNotes The Namesake is a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri that was first published inSummary read a Plot Overview of the entire book or a chapter by chapter Summary and Analysis. After finishing the Namesake, my thoughts were drawn to my last roommate in college, an Indian woman studying for her PHD in Psychology. When I first moved in, she had just broken up with her white boyfriend. “It never would have worked out anyway…” she had cried. By the end of that same year she was flying of to Houston to be wed to a man she had only seen once, a marriage arranged by their parents. Many nights my other roommate (an exchange student from Berlin) and I would sit out on the balcony smoking cigarettes and marveling at the concept of an arranged marriage in the new millennium. This book made me understand her a little bit better, her choice in marriage and other aspects of our briefly shared lives, like: her putting palm oil in her hair, the massive Dutch oven that was constantly blowing steam, or her mother living with us for 3 months.
This is after all the story of an Indian growing up American and the cultural adaptations and clashes that color his life. Perspective shifting from parent to child and back again, it’s an engaging view of an immigrant family in America. Gogol hates his name, and the Bengali traditions that are forced on him since childhood. The reader follows him through adolescence into adulthood where his history and his family affect his relationships with women more than anything else.
As much as this book was heralded for its exploration of the immigrant experience, as any truly great piece of literature, its lessons are universal
Anyone who has ever been ashamed of their parents, felt the guilty pull of duty, questioned their own identity, or fallen in love, will identify with these intermingling lives. The pace in which she tells it is exactly equal to looking back on the memories of a life lived. Skimming over the mundane, she punctuates the cherished memories and life changing events that are now somewhat hazy.
It is a superb first novel.
In 2000, Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for her story collection Interpreter of Maladies, becoming the first Indian to win the award. In the last story, an engineering graduate student arrives in Cambridge from Calcutta, starting a life in a new country. This story is the basis for The Namesake, Lahiri's first full length novel where she weaves together elements from her own life to paint a picture of the Indian immigrant experience in the United States.

Ashoke and Ashmina Ganguli, recently wed in an arranged marriage, have immigrated to Boston from Calcutta so that Ashoke can pursue a PhD in engineering. A world away from their Bengali family and friends and in the days before the Internet, their only means of communication was aero grams. Ashmina is immediately homesick for India so she founds a network of Bengalis up and down the east coast, preserving traditions and creating a pseudo-family in her new country. With her husband learning and teaching, these friends are a reminder of home for her, and, as a result, she never fully assimilates into American society.

Within the first year of the Gangulis arrival, Ashmina becomes pregnant with the couple's first child. Adhering to Bengali tradition, Ashmina's grandmother is supposed to name the baby, but her letter never arrives. Ashoke contemplates and comes up with the only name he can think of: Gogol, after the Russian writer, whose volume of short stories saved his life during a fatal train derailment in India. Both Ashoke and Ashmina desire that Gogol have a Bengali life in America despite being one of few Indian families in their area.

Gogol and his younger sister Sonali grow up fully assimilated as Americans. They barely speak Bengali and only once in awhile crave Indian food. Both choose career paths that are not traditionally Indian so that they have little contact with the Bengali culture that their parents fought so hard to preserve. Lahiri even creates a character based on her own immigrant experiences who desires an identity different than Bengali or American and seeks a doctorate in French literature. Based in Brooklyn and Paris, this woman resembles Lahiri as she learned to speak Italian and lived in Rome for a number of years. Lahiri and her character sought to remake themselves in order to distance themselves from the Bengali culture that their parents forced upon them as children.

As in Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri paints a rich picture of the Indian immigrant experience in the United States. Using short sentences with rich prose, the story moves quickly as we follow the Ganguli family for thirty five years of their lives. Being an immigrant turns into a unique experience for each character, yet the story centers around Gogol as he moves from Indian American child to American Indian adult. With a novel rich in subplots and provocative issues of the day, Jhumpa Lahiri is quickly becoming a leading voice in literary fiction and a favorite author of mine. I look forward to the other rich novels that Lahiri has in store, and rate The Namesake 4.5 bright stars. Look. I admit it. I read for escapist purposes. Specifically, I read to experience a viewpoint that I would never have encountered otherwise. I read to escape the boundaries of my own limited scope, to discover a new life by looking through lenses of all shades, shapes, weirds, wonders, everything humanity has been allotted to senses both defined and not, conveyed by the best of a single mortal's abilities within the span of a fragile stack printed with oh so water damageable ink.

I do not read to have my reality handed back to me on more mundane terms than I myself could create on two hours of sleep and a monstrosity of a hangover.

The good things about this book? It's readable. Very readable. Very punctual use of commas, and paragraph indentations, and general story flow. And by reading it from cover to cover, I have discovered a pet peeve of mine that I hadn't realized I had been liable to, but now fully acknowledge as part and parcel of my readerly sensibilities. Fortunate for me, not so fortunate for the book.

Show, not tell. Perhaps you've heard the phrase, over and over and over to a nauseatingly horrific extent without any additional information as to how exactly to go about accomplishing this mantra. There's a multitude of reasons for following this niftily short doctrine, and one of them is fully encompassed by this novel here, with its unholy engorgement on lists.

If a scene pops up, lists of the surroundings. If an action is participated in, lists of all the objects involved, with as prolific a number of brand names as possible. If a character is introduced, well, the only way to go about it is to list of their clothing, their rote physical attributes, their major, their job, their personal history as far as is encompassed by a résumé or Facebook page. Minimal amounts of creative flights, barely a metaphor in sight, and as for deeply resonant emotional delving into the personas meandering the page, down to the very blood and bones of their recognizable humanity? Nadda. I wish I was joking when I said that, had Lahiri not been allowed to pad her story with all these long strings of descriptive sentences that were nothing more than another entry in the same old, same old, you'd be left with fifty pages. If that. The end result was a feeling of being able to read this story quickly, yes, but through a thick layer of cellophane that left in its wake singular feelings of why am I bothering and its good old pal, am I supposed to care?

There's another piece of terminology that writing classes love to throw around in addition to that previous standard, and that's voice. If there was a voice in this novel, it was drowned by the endless streams of banal information attached to every inch of the plot's surface, leaving me with the slightly ill sense of watching the consumerism train wreck of typical American society without any reassurance that the author knew what they were doing. Also, the almost constant adherence to stereotypes of Indians who immigrate to America as the engineering->Ivy League->repeat, along with every other gender/familial/socioeconomic stereotype known to humanity? Considering the fact that one of my biggest reasons for reading as much as I do is to find a breakdown of these popular culture standards, I was rather disappointed. Scratch that, I was very disappointed, enough to muse on whether this book, published all of nine years ago, had helped propagate those stereotypes in the first place. Dark thoughts indeed.

Finally, the literature title dropping. I suppose I should've expected it, what with the main character's name issues taking up the entirety of the novel's effort when it came to both theme and its own title, but by the end of it I was sick of seeing all those highflown phrases without a single scrip of fictional push on the author's part to live up to these influences. Borrow a few methods of making your prose fly off the page in a churning maelstrom of creating your own beautiful song out of the best the written word has to offer? Fine, dandy, go forth and prosper. Shoving in 'The Man Without Qualities' and Proust within the last few pages in some obtuse attempt to impress those who are in the know? Hipster, and I mean that with a vengeance.

So, simply put, if you're looking to recommend me South Asian literature, please oh please grant me a work along the lines of The God of Small Things. Cultural intersection between self and others without relying on the obvious and the physical objects? Check. Characters that broke my heart over and over with their joy and their sorrow that I wish I could follow forevermore? Check. Voice? Just. You'd have to read it. It even has a literature reference, albeit in a way that pays full tribute to the work far beyond the facile typing of its signifying phrase and nothing more.

This? Not so much. Jhumpa Lahiri's excellent mastery and command of language are amazing. She writes so effortlessly and enchantingly, in such a captivating manner and yet so matter-of-factly that her writing completely enthralls me. Just look at one of my favorite passages - so simple and beautiful:

Try to remember it always, he said once Gogol had reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. Remember that you and I made this journey together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.
No wonder it took me quite a few days after finishing this book to finally surface from under the charm of her language before I was able to figure out what exactly kept nagging me about The Namesake.

You see, The Namesake flows so well that it almost easy to overlook the weak plot development and the unfortunate wasting of so much potential that this story could have had. After finishing it, I had the pleasant 'warm & fuzzy' nostalgic feeling - and yet almost immediately the narrative itself began to fade in my mind, and it became hard to remember what exactly happened over the three hundred pages.

In a nutshell, this is a story about the immigrant experience. Ashoke and Ashima are first-generation immigrants to the US from India, and they do not have the easiest time adjusting to the peculiarities of their new home and its culture. Gogol, the protagonist, is their son who is tasked with living the double life, so to speak - fitting in with the culture of his parents as well as the culture of his family's new country. Simultaneously experiencing two cultures is not always easy, and this is the main theme of this book. And these were the bits of the story that I could relate to in a way, being a first-generation immigrant myself.
For being a foreigner Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy -- a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity of from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

The Namesake is titled so because Gogol is named after a famous Russian writer Nikolai Gogol (the reason I picked up this book, by the way. Nikolai Gogol is a great writer). Famous namesake or not, young Gogol dislikes his unusual moniker quite a bit. This is a set-up for the conflict, which, unfortunately, I felt was quite underdeveloped.

You see, Lahiri takes a subtle approach without the need to hit the reader over the head with her message. The story she tells is lifelike - calm, subdued, without extra glamour added to it, without every set-up resulting in a major conflict. But I feel that this subtlety quite often crosses the line into the lull of dullness. The story becomes almost like a diary - with much everyday filler, many simple events, many instances of telling and not showing, and not enough payoff - at least for me. Apparently I love quick gratifications, and this book did not deliver those.

I want to reiterate that my issues with this book were very easy (even for me) to initially disregard because of the beauty and near perfection of Lahiri writing style which makes up for many flaws. But ultimately I felt unsatisfied with the story, and therefore I can only give it 3.5 stars. That said, I already bought two other books by Lahiri and will definitely read them. She seems to be a brilliant writer, and maybe will prove to be a better storyteller in her other works. He hates that his name is both absurd and obscure, that it has nothing to do with who he is, that it is neither Indian nor American but of all things Russian. He hates having to live with it, with a pet name turned good name, day after day, second after second… At times his name, an entity shapeless and weightless, manages nevertheless to distress him physically, like the scratchy tag of a shirt he has been forced permanently to wear.

Although on the surface, it appears that Gogol Ganguli’s torment in life is due to a name that he despises, a name that doesn’t make any sense to him, the true struggle is one of identity and belonging. Jhumpa Lahiri crafts a novel full of introspection and quiet emotion as she tells the story of the immigrant experience of one Bengali family, the Gangulis. Following an arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to America to begin a new life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While Ashoke has the distraction of a professional career, Ashima feels lost and adrift without family, friends, and the comfort of familiar surroundings. In fact, Ashima will spend decades trying to make a life for herself, trying to fit into a culture that is so alien to the one she has left behind. Upon the birth of her first child, Ashima feels so utterly alone without family by her side to support her and welcome this new baby. As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can’t help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived. Thus begins Gogol’s life and his pursuit towards understanding and establishing his own identity as a first generation American born to Indian immigrants.

Named after Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, our developing protagonist will scorn not only his name but also his parent’s traditions, their quiet ways, their trips to Calcutta to visit family, and their “adopted” Bengali family in America – those friends with similar immigrant experiences to their own. Instead, he yearns to shed his namesake, one that holds special significance in his father’s life for reasons that have yet to be revealed to Gogol himself. I have to wonder if Gogol had earlier learned the extraordinary meaning of this name to his father’s own personal experience, then perhaps Gogol’s approach towards life would have been different. But, in a sense this is a coming of age story for Gogol and perhaps the timing would not have mattered so much as his own maturing and growth. We see Gogol and his sister Sonia embracing American ways – eating Thanksgiving turkeys, preparing for Santa Claus, and coloring Easter eggs – while Ashoke and Ashima continue to expose them to the Bengali customs and celebrations. Once Gogol sets off for college, he attempts to leave behind much of his parent’s influence as well as his name. But in changing a name can a young man really erase his heritage and begin a life ignoring the expectations of his parents, the imprint of their culture? Isn’t this a part of him, just as much as are the American ways and customs? Does he truly need to put aside one way of life in order to find complete happiness in another? Through a series of relationships and life events, Gogol does transform over time, or so I believe, but not without his share of trials and heartache.

Jhumpa Lahiri has a gift for penetrating the psyche of each of her characters. It seems there is always something a reader can relate to in each of them, in one way or another – whether likeable or not. Each character is flawed just as every human being is imperfect. I don’t think that one needs to understand the immigrant experience to connect with this book. The Namesake is completely relatable to anyone that has ever strived to fit in, to find an identity, to accept those around us for what they are, not what we think they should be.

Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end.
The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake (2003) is the first novel by American author Jhumpa Lahiri. It was originally a novel published in The New Yorker and was later expanded to a full-length novel. It explores many of the same emotional and cultural themes as her Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection Interpreter of Maladies.

Moving between events in Calcutta, Boston, and New York City, the novel examines the nuances involved with being caught between two conflicting cultures with highly distinct religious, social, and ideological differences. The novel describes the struggles and hardships of a Bengali couple who immigrate to the United States to form a life outside of everything they are accustomed to.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز ششم ماه نوامبر سال 2014 میلادی

عنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: گیتا گرکانی؛ تهران، نشر علم، 1383، در 384 ص، شابک: 9644053737؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان هندی تبار امریکایی - سده 21 م

عنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: امیرمهدی حقیقت؛ تهران، ماهی، 1383، در 360 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛ چاپ سوم 1385، چاپ پنجم 1393؛

عنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: فریده اشرفی؛ تهران، مروارید، 1383، در 386 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1384؛

عنوان: همنام؛ نویسنده: جومپا لاهیری؛ مترجم: زهره خلیلی؛ تهران، قطره، 1386، در 425 ص؛ شابک: 9789643415921؛

همنام، نخستین رمان «جومپا لاهیری» ست. ایشان «همنام» را، نخست به‌ صورت داستانی بلند، در مجله‌ ی نیویورکر، منتشر کردند؛ و سپس در سال 2004 میلادی، طرح آن را گسترش دادند، و به صورت یک رمان درآورند. «همنام» نیز، همانند مجموعه‌ داستان «مترجم دردها»، از همین نویسنده، به مشکلات فرهنگی هندی‌ها، در دنیای مدرن می‌پردازد. «لاهیری» در این رمان، مشکلات و دشواری‌های زندگی زوجی «بنگالی» را، توصیف می‌کند؛ که به امریکا مهاجرت کرده‌ اند. این زوج در امریکا، با سبکی از زندگی مواجه می‌شوند، که تفاوت بسیاری با نوع زندگی آنها دارد، و برایشان نامأنوس است. ا. شربیانی I read this book on several plane journeys and while hanging around several airports. I'm putting the emphasis on ‘several’ because it took me a long time to read it even though I was in a hurry to finish. I was in a hurry, not because it was a page turner but because I really needed to get to the end.
And although I read it in relatively few days I still read it very very slowly. There are a lot of words in this book.

I love words. I can read words quite happily for hours as long as they don't come encased in boring reports or long winded articles. I'd be very poor at reading detailed accounts of real life happenings for a court case or an insurance settlement, for example. I imagine my eyelids would droop and my attention would wander. I'm sure that in such a situation, I'd jump at any opportunity to do something else instead. So it was wise on my part to read this book on a journey, given that I was obliged to remain in my seat and do nothing other than read. It's well known that I can't do nothing, therefore I read this book to the end.

You’ll have gathered by now that I think of this book in terms of a report or a historical document, one in which the author felt duty bound to record every detail of the experiences of the people whose lives she had chosen to examine. They may be fictional characters but they sound like real people, and their stories sound like an accumulation of real data. All those trips to Calcutta - it seemed as if the reader gets a report of each and every one.

In literary fiction as opposed to report writing, it’s reasonable to expect that an author will have picked through the mass of facts they’ve accumulated, retaining only the best and then further selecting and polishing those best bits in such a way that the reader will admire and retain them in turn. On one or two occasions, Jhumpa Lahiri manages to extract an interesting gem from her accumulations - as when a bride-to-be tentatively places her foot in one of the shoes her future husband has left outside the door of the room where she is about to meet him for the first time. We are with the girl in that pause before she turns the handle on her new life. We see her try it for size.

That scene was short and perfect. Contrast it with this description of a character who enters the story for three pages and is never heard from again. Donald (I can’t even remember why he appears in the story now) is tall, wearing flip-flops and a paprika-colored shirt whose sleeves are rolled up to just above the elbows. He is handsome, with patrician features and swept-back, slightly greasy, light-brown hair.
What was the significance of the shirt colour, I wondered? Or him being tall, or his hair being greasy?

The book is full of metaphors that appear meaningful at first glance but then you say, wait a minute, what does that really mean? As, for example, when the main character and his father walk to the very end of a breakwater, and the father says: “Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere else to go.”
There had been a long lead-up to this line which ends a chapter. I wondered if I'd missed something significant that would have made the finish line amaze and impress me. But I couldn't bear to wade through the chapter again to find out.

The main premise of the book is in fact based on a metaphor: a mistake in the choosing of the principal character’s name comes to represent the identity problems which confront children born between cultures. In this case, the American requirement for a baby to be officially named before leaving hospital clashes with the Bengali practice of allowing the baby to remain unnamed until the matriarch of the family has decided on a name. Soon after his (very detailed) birth near the beginning of the book, the main character is temporarily named Gogol by his parents because the letter containing the name chosen for him by his Bengali great grandmother hasn't yet arrived in Boston. The father has picked the temporary name Gogol because he owes his life to the fact that he was sitting close to a window reading Gogol’s ‘The Overcoat’ when a train he was traveling on crashed, and therefore escaped. Since the letter from the grandmother never arrives, ‘Gogol’ becomes the main character’s official name and his love/hate relationship with it eventually comes to define his life.

The 'name' issue is interesting but it's a bit of a stretch on the author's part to make it the central framework for the entire saga. I tried hard to relate the story of ‘The Overcoat’ to the main character's life in an effort to understand everything better, but apart from wondering if his yearning for an ideal name could be compared to Akaki’s yearning for the perfect overcoat, I was lost.
This is a good moment to mention the utter seriousness of Lahiri’s writing. Considering the connections she painstakingly makes with Nikolai Gogol, the lack of humour in her writing stands out in complete contrast to the Russian author who not only knows how to extract the essence of a situation and present it in short form, but also how to do it with underlying humour.

I don't dismiss this book about the problems of assimilation and dual identity without asking myself if the relationship Lahiri seems to have with minutiae reveals something important in her writing. As the daughter of Bengali emigrants, I understand that she may feel a responsibility to write down the stories of people like her parents, people who arrived in the US as young emigrants and struggled to retain their own culture while trying to assimilate the new one. People who, once a spouse dies, must move between their relatives, resident everywhere and nowhere. That theme echoes two other books I read recently about exiles, Us & Them and Exit West, both of which led me to read The Namesake - I wanted to see how Lahiri dealt with similar issues. But while there are parallels between the three books, 'Us&Them' and 'Exit West' are beautifully pared back; the extraneous details have all been removed and we’re left, especially in the case of 'Us&Them', with exquisite literary cameos that are far more memorable than Lahiri’s lengthy if historically accurate scenarios.

I feel that Lahiri may have some awareness of her tendency to include too much information. She offers a kind of run-through of the themes in the last few pages as if her book had been a textbook and we students needed to have the central arguments summed up for us.
But alongside that awareness, I wanted Lahiri to impose some writing constraints on herself. I wanted her to consider how she would write if she had only a very limited vocabulary and the simplest of grammar structures at her disposal.

But she did exactly that, I hear you shout, she went to live in Italy for two years and forced herself to read and write only in Italian!

Coincidentally, I have the book that resulted from that journey though it had lain unread since I bought it some months ago. So I searched my book piles and found In Other Words and began to read it. It's a parallel text - her original Italian text plus a translator’s English version. Lahiri says at the beginning that she purposely avoided translating it herself because she feared she would alter it in the process, making it more elaborate….and longer!

She has a lot of interesting things to say about her own writing:
By writing in Italian I think I am escaping both my failures with regard to English and my success. Italian offered me a very different path. As a writer I can demolish myself, I can reconstruct myself…I am in Italian, a tougher, freer writer, who, taking root again, grows in a different way…My writing in Italian is a type of unsalted bread. It works, but the usual flavor is missing. On the other hand, I think that it does have a style, or at least a character. The language seems like a waterfall. I don't need every drop

And most interesting of all in the context of this (rather long-winded) review, she says:
I continue, as a writer, to seek the truth, but I don't give the same weight to factual truth
Enjoyed reading about the Bengali culture, their traditions, envied their sense and closeness of family. Ashima and Ashoke, an arranged marriage, moving to the USA where Ashoke is an engineer, trying to learn a different way of life, different language, so very difficult. Ashima misses her family, and after giving birth to a son misses them even more. They name their son, Gogol, there is a reason for this name, a name he will come to disdain. Eventually the family meets other Bengalis and they become family substitutes, celebrate important cultural milestones together.

This novel gave me a new understanding of just how hard it is to assimilate into a new culture. The first half of the book I remained emotionally unconnected to the characters, felt it was more tell than show. This changed after a family tragedy which afforded an opportunity for the characters to change as well. Was impatient with Gogol and his failure to appreciate everything about his parents, his own culture but he grows within the story as does his mother. So I ended up appreciating this book quite a bit as a cultural story and a family story. Very glad I finally read it. Auto correct hates these names by the way, had to go back and change them three times already. Nice book on struggling with intercultural identities.

I stare and stare at that sentence. I can't believe that is all I have to say about this novel. After all, this is MY topic. This is my life. My profession. My passion. How do people fit into a dominant culture if their parents come from somewhere else? Which customs do they pick from which environment, and how do they adapt to form a crosscultural identity that works for them? How is their language affected by constant switching? Where - if at all - do they feel at home? Do they have benefits from living between two worlds, or is it a loss? All those things are contained in this Pulitzer-winning author's novel, and yet

All I can say is: It's nice.

And when I taught language at an international school, I used to tell students struggling with synonyms to avoid repetitive use of common adjectives:

Nice is not a nice word. Find something more glorious! Book subtitle: I will write down everything I know about a certain family of Bengali immigrants in the United States by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Immigrant anguish - the toll it takes in settling in an alien country after having bidden adieu to one’s home, family, and culture is what this prize-winning novel is supposed to explore, but it's no more than a superficial complaint about a few signature – and done to death - South Asian issues relating to marriage and paternal expectations: a clichéd immigrant story, I'm afraid to say.

Gogol’s life, and that of every person related to him in any way, from the day of his birth to his divorce at 30, is documented in a long monotone, like a camera trained on a still scene, without zooming in and out, recording every movement the lens catches, accidentally. A final picture emerges in which nothing in particular stands out; and twists that could have been explored more deeply, on a philosophical and humanistic level, such as Gogol’s disillusionment with his dual identity or the aftermath of (Gogol’s father) Ashoke’s death are touched upon perfunctorily or rushed through.

Some cultural comparisons are made as though to validate the enlightened United States at the cost of backward India. This is a familiar line in immigrant success stories: to justify their decision to migrate to the West by heaping scorn on the country or culture of their origin.

But even that's not done intelligently. E.g; Maxine’s mother wears swimsuit on the lakeside; Gogol thinks his mother would never do that. Maxine’s parents don’t bother when Gogol moves into their house and have sex with Maxine; Gogol's parents would have been horrified! It is almost in these words the comparisons are made. Well, of course. We get it.

However, on the bright side, I liked the trope of public vs private names – Nikhil aka Gogol - and how Lahiri relates this private, accidental double-naming to the protagonist's larger identity crisis as an American of Indian background. But this is also wasted and in the end you are left with a lot of impatience welling up inside you.

February 2015