Jhumpa Lahiri

Portrait Jhumpa Lahiri
© Ali Ghandtschi

Jhumpa Lahiri was born as a child of Indian immigrants in London in 1967 and grew up in the American town of Kingston, Rhodes Island. She studied literature, creative writing (with Leslie Epstein) and comparative literature at New York Barnard College and Boston University, where she obtained a doctorate in Renaissance research.

Lahiri’s first volume of stories, »Interpreter of maladies« (1999) already demonstrates her subtle and balanced conciseness of style. As in the later short story collections, »Once in a Lifetime« (2006) and »Unaccustomed Earth« (2008) the focus is on second-generation Indian immigrants, committed to preserving their ethnic identities on the American East Coast. Existentially universal accounts of alienation, conflict and family dramas, these stories often concern the loneliness of loss and new beginnings. Directed by Mira Nair, Lahiri’s debut novel, »The Namesake« (2003) was adapted for the cinema. Over a decade before writing her internationally acclaimed novel, »The Lowland« (2013) she had already begun to research the historical backgrounds and ideas compiled in this epic family melodrama which spans several generations. Inseparable in their youth, the Calcutta-born brothers Subhash and Udayan are later alienated due to their political beliefs and ambitions. While one emigrates to the United States, where he devotes himself to his studies, the other suffers tragic consequences having been involved in the revolutionary Naxalite movement of the sixties and seventies. The author meticulously illuminates the causal entanglements in the lives of her characters, including Udayan’s wife Gauri and their daughter Bela, bringing the story to the present day and creating images evocative of the passing of time. Currently Lahiri is working on a book project in the Italian language – a kind of »linguistic autobiography«, in which she reflects on her current adopted home of Rome and how it is revealed in an unfamiliar language. Her essays, articles and short stories have been published in »The New Yorker«, »Epoch« and »Story Quarterly«.

Lahiri has been awarded the O. Henry Award (1999), the Hemingway Foundation PEN Award (2000), the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2000), the Addison M. Metcalf Award (2000), the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award (2008), the Asian American Literary Award (2009) and the Premio internazionale Vallombrosa Gregor von Rezzori (2009). She was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities by Barack Obama in 2010. Since 2012 she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Lahiri lives in the Trastevere district of Rome.