Friday, February 13, 2009

The Namesake

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Published: 2003
Publisher : Harper Collins

Thanks to a mandatory vacation enforced by my office, I could start and finish reading this book within a week. I had seen its film version ,directed by Mira Nair few months ago.
I liked the film better. But nevertheless, The Namesake as a book is a good read. The story of a an emigrant Bengali couple from India and their children who are born in U.S.A. is very vividly narrated. The whole book is written in present tense, so you can feel as if all the events and incidents described in the book are unfolding before your eyes. The protagonist Gogol (Nikhil) dislikes his name given to him by his father who is a great fan of the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. Having born and brought up in U.S.A , Gogol is more comfortable with the American way of life and finds it very difficult to understand his parents views based on their upbringing in India. However this book is not about clash of generations. In fact his parents come to accept his way of life though reluctantly without creating a big fuss. It is more about how Gogol struggles to strike a balance between his social interactions and his interactions with his parents and finally comes to terms with them.
Both the Indian and American characters in this story are very realistically portrayed. They all mean well but so self-centered with in their views and their way of life, that it does not strike them that people from other culture can be different.
Russian writer Gogol and his story "The Overcoat " forms an underlying theme of the book. I should read that story some day to appreciate better it's linkages with The Namesake.

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