Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri talks about UNACCUSTOMED EARTH

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?

A: "Well, I'll start by saying that I think that those very kind and generous words..."

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? 

A: "I think in a way to be able to go back to very early inchoate ideas..."

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?

A: "It is the first time that I came to the end of a 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?

A: "Having children has made things more challenging in a logistical sense..."

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?

A: "I think I return to Boston for a number of reasons..."

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?

A: I was re-reading The Scarlet Letter probably three or four years ago..."

Q: What were you reading while you were working on these stories?

A: "Other than The Scarlet Letter I was doing a lot of re-reading when I was 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?

A: "I think this collection to me feels like the consequence of having written a book of stories and then having written a novel..."

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