The Lowland

Topics: West Bengal, Naxalite, Novel Pages: 7 (3609 words) Published: December 23, 2014

Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research Journal

ISSN: 2278-9529

Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland: A Family Saga with a Political Perspective Sugata Samanta
West Bengal, India
Abstract :
Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland, partly set in Calcutta of the 1960's and 70's and partly in Rhode Island of America, tells the story of four generations of Mitra family with a sweeping, addictive plot. The initial development of the story centers around the Naxalite insurgency in West Bengal in late 1960's and 70's which had taken the country by surprise. In this article I have tried to find out, by means of textual analysis, how far the novelist has succeeded in representing the Naxalite movement in her novel vibrantly and aesthetically. Keywords : Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland, Naxalite movement

"The worlds of the familiar, the exotic, the best of human nature and the most selfish inhabit Jhumpa Lahiri's new novel". That is how Corinna Lothar summarizes the essence of The Lowland in The Washington Times (Lothar). From the very beginning of her career, right from the publication of The Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri is often categorized as an immigrant writer though she herself rejected the idea of immigrant fiction. "I don't know what to make of the term," she told The New York Times, "Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction"

Jhumpa Lahiri may not be eager to promote herself as the exquisite image of an immigrant writer, unmistakably in The Lowland, Calcutta of the 70's with its Naxalite movement and the Rhode Island of America have been fused inseparably. Calcutta(or Kolkata), as she reveals, is at the same time absent and vibrantly present in her life. "The impact that the absence of a place can have on a person is an intrinsic part of my existence. I do not know a world without it", said the writer in Jaipur Literature Festival, 2014 (India Today). Thus, there is not a single element of surprise that one of the major settings of The Lowland is Calcutta of 1970's. The novel in fact casts its net wider and tries to offer a glance to the readers at the Naxalite movements of late 1960's and turbulent 70's which altered and trembled the lives of Bengal in many ways.

The novelist recollects the source of the political plot of the novel on a tragic incident heard by her during one of her many visits to her father's ancestral home in Kolkata. It was the story of two brothers who were suspected of being Naxalites and killed by the police in front of their families. "The story was haunting and it stayed with me for years", said the author in Jaipur Literature Festival (India Today). Elsewhere, she almost replicates it: "That was the scene that, when I first heard of it, when it was described to me, was so troubling and so haunted me-and ultimately inspired me to write the book " (Neary).

The Naxal era, in fact, proves to ignite the imagination of the Bengali writers in different periods of writing. The Bengali readers are already familiar with the sorrowful account of Broti, and his mother Sujata Chatterjee( in Hajar Churashir Maa or The Mother of 1084 by Mahasweta Devi) or the life story of Animesh Mitra (in Kalbela by Samaresh Majumdar) or in more recent

Vol. 3, Issue VI


November 2014

Galaxy: International Multidisciplinary Research Journal

ISSN: 2278-9529

times, the conflicts of Panchali, Sukanti, Dronacharya and Nirupam ( in Aatta- Natar Surjyo by Ashok Kumar Mukhopadhyay). The last work even transports the reader from the Naxalite uprising of 1970's to the anti-establishment movement of 2008-10 at Lalgarh, West Midnapur of West Bengal. Nevertheless, for a non-Indian English reader, the background of Naxalite movement is almost a novel experience. Lahiri's novel at least ventures to provide a glimpse of the Naxalite uprising of 60's and 70's. No wonder this type of risky undertaking from the part...

Cited: Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Lowland. Random House India, 2013. Print
(All references from the text have been taken from the same edition)
Mukhopadhyay, Ashok Kumar. Aatta-Natar Surjya. Kolkata: Dey 's Publishing, 2013. Print
Lothar, Corinna
"Jhumpa Lahiri: By the Book". The New York Times, 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 1 Sept. 2014
"Jaipur Literature Festival: Jhumpa Lahiri was the crowd puller for Day 2"
Public Radio, 23 Sept. 2013.Web. 1 Sept.2014
Leyshon, Cressida."Unknown Territory: An Interview with Jhumpa Lahiri"
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