Monday, July 21, 2008

Book Review-The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

“What’s in a name?” It is precisely this issue, that this book by Jhumpa Lahiri, writer of the memorable 'Interpreter of maladies', sought to tackle in the “Namesake”. Gogol, the protagonist of the story, had been named so, as the grandmothers letter bearing his true name did not cross the oceans from Bengal to his place of birth, America. His tribulations with a name that didn’t inspire confidence in him, not knowing the significance of his name, all cascaded into waves of revolt against his name and made him change into another “Nikhil”. But..he still felt like Gogol.

The book also talks about the identity crisis that ABCDs are supposed to go through. Though Gogol and his sister Sonia were born of Indian Bengali parents, they completely felt American and had completely imbibed its values and social systems. There is no discombobulation in their minds; they are clear about the fact that America is their homeland, and not India which might be their parents’. The fact baffles the parents who feel torn apart as their minds live in one continent and bodies in another. The children on the other hand associate their whole and soul in the country they have always inhabited do not really understand the customs of their parents’ native country . Gogol in his search for an identity must have realised that there was more to it than just a name.



  1. Really? The movie was pretty good. I thought Kal Penn did a pretty good job of portraying Gogol's perpetual tryst with the meaning of his name (I particularly like the way his taken name bears subtle reference to his given name!).
    The contradictions in identities were, however, what endeared me the most to the story. However cliche, Ashima's conflict came out as the strongest (courtesy a powerful performance by Tabu). Not to discount Irfan Khan's fine performance as he portrays the dilemma of a man trying to provide his family the American dream whilst still holding on to his roots for want of an identity; the dilemma of a first generation immigrant, a namesake American citizen.

  2. I do agree with your view.
    You can go through my review on ‘Between The Lines’: