Friday, August 8, 2008

Guest Blog---Gogol Who?

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri follows Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli as they leave India to begin a new life in the United States. They start a family and struggle to assimilate in the country of their children's birth.

The oldest child, Gogol Ganguli, is named after Ashoke's favorite Russian author and struggles for decades with this strange name that holds no meaning for him. Lahiri follows Gogol as he embraces and lives an American life while struggling with the native culture of his parents, a culture he cannot understand.

I found the characters in Namesake difficult to like and struggled to feel sympathy toward Gogol and his selfish desires to separate himself from the Bengali culture.

The only characters I cared for were Ashoke and Ashima. I felt sympathy for them as they struggle to begin a new life in the United States while living so far away from the security of family and culture. Ashoke, an MIT professor, is endearing to me, but I can't tell if it truly is the character or the fact that my own father is an academic.

The scenes in India, the explanations of the culture, and the sneak peak into bustling Calcutta are thoroughly enjoyable and help to keep the novel interesting.

Overall, Namesake is an enjoyable read but is not as remarkable as the reviews proclaim it to be. I enjoyed Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies much more.


notaconnoisseur said...

I still lament the passing of WA Post's Sunday column Life as Hiaku. I think one of the first ones that I ever read was submitted by a man from India who was a physician in the Washington, D.C. area. He and his wife struggled to feel a part of their adopted country. He would say to her, "Let's go back to our family in India." Then he would cry, "But then I won't know what is happening with the Redskins!"

Blogger said...

Some friends who immigrated from other countries have commented on the sense of limbo they feel. They will never be Americans, but they no longer comfortably fit in their native countries, either. It's hard to imagine such a feeling of displacement.