In this audio interview, Jhumpa Lahiri talks with Knopf about Unaccustomed Earth. Click the links after each question to hear her response.
Q: The New York Times once said that your “plots are as elegantly constructed as a fine proof in mathematics.” How does that feel to you—after the initial ideas are there and you’re working things out on paper do you feel as if you’re working on a math problem or a puzzle? Or is it much less rational and linear?
Q: You have said that some of the stories in this book had been in rough draft form for several years, and that in some cases you were going back to them after long periods away. What was it like going back to pieces that you’d written several years ago, and trying to delve back in to those worlds?
Q: The final three stories are about Hema and Kaushik. This is the first time you have carried a character from one story to another. Do you think there’s any accounting for why that happened, why you wanted to know more, or write more, about Hema and Kaushik after the first story?
Q: You have two young children, which must make it difficult to find blocks of time in which to write. Does that, in turn, have any effect on your writing process, or your drive to write, or other aspects of your writing?
Q: Several of your stories—and also a large part of The Namesake—take place in the Boston area. You lived there yourself; what kind of impression did the area leave on you, and why do you think it appears in many of your stories?
Q: Can you talk about the epigraph for the book, which contains the phrase “unaccustomed earth”? That quotation from Hawthorne’s The Custom-House, the introduction to The Scarlet Letter, is so beautiful. Why did you choose it?
Q: What were you reading while you were working on these stories?
Q: Your first book, Interpreter of Maladies, was also a book of short stories. How do you think this collection differs from Interpreter?