The Namesake (2003) is the first novel by the American author Jhumpa Lahiri. It was originally a novel published in The New Yorker and later expanded to a full novel. It explores many of the same emotional and cultural themes as its Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Moving between the events in Calcutta, Boston, and New York City, the novel examines the nuances involved in being caught between two cultures in conflict with very different religious, social, and ideological differences.
|Publisher||St Martin’s Griffin|
|Publication date||September 2003|
The Namesake Summary
Jhumpa Lahiri’s disease interpreter established this young writer as one of the brightest of her generation. Her stories are one of the few debut works, and only a handful of collections, to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among the many other awards and accolades she received were the New Yorker Debut of the Year Award, the PEN / Hemingway Award, and the highest critical praise for her grace, wit, and compassion in detailing the lives transported from India to America.
In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Once again, Lahiri displays her skillful touch for the perfect detail, the fleeting moment, the twist of the phrase, which opens up entire worlds of emotion.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family out of their life tied to tradition in Calcutta through their tense transformation into Americans. Following their organized wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settled together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts much less cautiously than his wife, who resists all things American and yearns for her family. When your child is born, the task of naming him betrays the annoying results of bringing old customs to the new world. Named to a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli only knows that he suffers the burden of his inheritance, as well as his strange and outdated name.
Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles on the path of the first generation, riddled with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and heartbreaking love relationships. With a penetrating vision, it reveals not only the defining power of names and the expectations that our parents give us but also the means by which, slowly, sometimes painfully, we come to define ourselves.
The Namesake Review
Extraordinary … a book that takes the gold out of the straw of ordinary life. The calm, the lucid grace of his prose, the sustained stretch of crystalline writing, and his elegant piano tone, attract the reader from beginning to end in an orderly arc. Every detail, every observation, every sentence rings out with the clarity of truth. “The Namesake” is a novel that makes your reader feel privileged to have access to your immensely empathetic world.
A film adaptation of the novel was released in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and India in March 2006. It was directed by Mira Nair and featured a screenplay by Sooni Taraporevala.
About The Author of The Book Jhumpa Lahiri
Nilanjana Sudeshna “Jhumpa” Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.
Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School and later received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She then received multiple degrees from Boston University: an M.A. in English, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Literature, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She took up a fellowship at Provincetown’s Fine Arts Work Center, which lasted for the next two years (1997-1998).
In 2001, she married Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist who was then Deputy Editor of TIME Latin America Lahiri currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. She has been a Vice President of the PEN American Center since 2005.
Lahiri taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Much of her short fiction concerns the lives of Indian-Americans, particularly Bengalis.
She received the following awards, among others:
1999 – PEN/Hemingway Award (Best Fiction Debut of the Year) for Interpreter of Maladies;
2000 – The New Yorker’s Best Debut of the Year for Interpreter of Maladies;
2000 – Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut Interpreter of Maladies