Reading Jhumpa Lahiri Politically

Nivedita Majumdar in Jacobin:

CovertJhumpa Lahiri does not like to be categorized as an immigrant writer, and her latest novel, The Lowland, is her strongest argument against that pigeonhole. Her discomfort with the label is understandable. After all, she has refreshingly little in common with diasporic writers like Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee, or Chitra Divakaruni. Unlike them, she does not brandish her immigrant status as an epistemologically superior vantage point, nor is she anxious to prove herself as a worthy native informant. Her writing is free of the exotic.

A second-generation immigrant, she is firmly grounded in the culture in which she was raised. Yet, growing up with parents for whom home would always be elsewhere, she gets the immigrant experience, especially its melancholia. Of what she knows, she writes masterfully. Indeed, prior to The Lowland, her fiction has been almost exclusively an engagement with immigrant angst in its many hues.

For The Lowland, partly set in Calcutta in the sixties and seventies, during the throes of the Maoist Naxalite movement, her ambitions are of a different order. She steps out of the sphere of navel-gazing immigrant fiction and frames the novel with a political movement of which she has no experiential knowledge.

More here.