Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, August 20, 2012

"A Temporary Matter" by Jhumpa Lahiri

"A Temporary Matter" by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999, 22 pages)

Jhumpa Lahiri is a very highly regarded short story writer and novelist.   Her first collection of stories, in which "A Temporary Matter" is included, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2008 her second collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth, won the Frank O'Connor Prize for best collection of short stories.     Most of her stories are about Bengali immigrants living in The United States or their children.   Her parents were from India, she was born in London and is now a US citizen.   (There is more information about her very distinguished career here).   There are nine short stories in Interpreter of Maladies, I have already posted on one of them, "Sexy", and hope to post on the other eight in relatively short order.

"A Temporary Matter" is about an immigrant couple, living in Baltimore, Maryland in the  USA.  The man is in his six year in  graduate school working on his PhD.   The couple has just gotten a notice from the power company saying repairs to the system will require the power to be cut off everyday for a while, starting at eight P. M.   The wife works outside the home, they are childless, the wife having miscarried six months ago.   The wife was three weeks from her scheduled delivery date when her husband needed to go to an academic conference.  He did not want to go but his wife insisted as it would be good for networking.   She miscarried  while he is at the conference and he returned just at the end of her labor.   He and his wife tried to keep their feeling of closeness but somehow events like this often have bad consequences for weak marriages.   He and his wife do not fight but they somehow become "experts at avoiding each other".   He no longer looked forward to weekends when they could be together.   At first he hopes it will pass.   They still have sex but it feels like it is more because they think it is something they should do .   They take the occasion of the hour of darkness to try to re-bond.   They cook each other special meals and than something the enjoy. The husband thinks it is working, that the marriage is mending.   Then his wife tells him that, just as a "temporary matter" she has found and will move into her own apartment.  He knows now all of her behavior of seeming to want to repair their marriage was a lie as she had been arranging her apartment the whole time.   He takes a terrible revenge on her, a stab at the heart not the body.

This is a wonderful story about the loss of feeling in marriage, about deception and emptiness.

I look forward to reading her other stories.

Mel u


Anonymous said...

This is my favorite story in her Pulitzer-winning anthology. It is skillfully written. Thanks for reminding us the details of the story for I can only sharply remember what I felt while reading it. :)

Mel u said...

Angus25-thanks so much for your comment and visit. If you are interested in Filipino literature please look at some of my short story posts.

Rummanah Aasi said...

I do remember enjoying this story, but I think Lahiri's collection of short stories in "Unaccustomed Earth" were much better. It moved beyond the husband-wife story.

WordsBeyondBorders said...

There is an undercurrent of claustrophobic atmosphere most of the story with the couple trying to break free of the burden of the past, but sadly failing.

Tanya Sehgal said...

I read this story when I was in first year of college & it's a wonderful read. The author reflects the poignant face between a husband & wife secrets. Nice read. Thanks for the review. I was blog walking just came across your blog. Nice post.
I would love if you visit mine. Thanks

Sabidin Ibrahim said...

It's a very good piece of analysis.
"A Temporary Matter" by narration and characterization is a superb piece by Jhumpa Lahiri. How little little events combine human lives and how tiny events are not tiny either rather the mother of bigger events, bigger complexities.

*There should be a little correction in your beautiful work where you begin a sentence "He husband...
If you give a second look it will be a spotless one, I bet.

EA Gamini Fonseka said...

Dear Mel,
Thank you for your review of "A Temporary Matter" by Jumpa Lahiri. I have produced an analysis of it for the benefit of my students, but before it being publicised I like it to have been read by somebody who has read it thoroughly. Would you mind sending me your e-mail address to so that I can send it to you for your observations?
Thank you in advance.

Tsam2241 said...

Both husband and wife work endlessly in order to not deal with the loss of their baby. They disconnected and avoided each other. But losing power for few days had brought them back together. They started talking and bonding again. But it was just temporary. In the end I realized that their marriage was long over.