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Whereabouts
Cover of Whereabouts
Whereabouts
A novel
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies—her first in nearly a decade—about a woman questioning her place in the world, wavering between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties.

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.

We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
 
This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies—her first in nearly a decade—about a woman questioning her place in the world, wavering between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties.

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.

We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
 
This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    On the Sidewalk

    In the mornings after breakfast I walk past a small marble plaque propped against the high wall flanking the road. I never knew the man who died. But over the years I’ve come to know his name, his surname. I know the month and day he was born and the month and day his life ended. This was a man who died two days after his birthday, in February.

    It must have been an accident on his bike or his motorcycle. Or maybe he was walking at night, distracted. Maybe he was hit by a passing car.

    He was forty-­four when it happened. I suppose he died in this very spot, on the sidewalk, next to the wall that sprouts neglected plants, which is why the plaque has been arranged at the bottom, at the feet of passersby. The road is full of curves and snakes uphill. It’s a bit dangerous. The sidewalk is vexing, crowded with exposed tree roots. Some sections are nearly impossible to negotiate because of the roots. That’s why I, too, tend to walk on the road.

    There’s usually a candle burning in a container of red glass, along with a small bunch of flowers and the statue of a saint. There’s no photograph of him. Above the candle, attached to the wall, there’s a note from his mother, written by hand, encased in a milky plastic sleeve. It greets those who stop for a moment to ponder the death of her son. I would like to personally thank those who dedicate a few minutes of their time to my son’s memory, but if that’s not possible, I thank you anyway, from the bottom of my heart, it says.

    I’ve never seen the mother or any other person in front of the plaque. Thinking of the mother just as much as the son, I keep walking, feeling slightly less alive.

     

    On the Street

    Now and then on the streets of my neighborhood I bump into a man I might have been involved with, maybe shared a life with. He always looks happy to see me. He lives with a friend of mine, and they have two children. Our relationship never goes beyond a longish chat on the sidewalk, a quick coffee together, perhaps a brief stroll in the same direction. He talks excitedly about his projects, he gesticulates, and now and then as we’re walking our synchronized bodies, already quite close, discreetly overlap.

    One time he accompanied me into a lingerie shop because I had to choose a pair of tights to wear under a new skirt. I’d just bought the skirt and I needed the tights for that same evening. Our fingers grazed the textures splayed out on the counter as we sorted through the various colors. The binder of samples was like a book full of flimsy transparent pages. He was totally calm among the bras, the nightgowns, as if he were in a hardware store and not surrounded by intimate apparel. I was torn between the green and the purple. He was the one who convinced me to choose the purple, and the saleslady, putting the tights into the bag, said: Your husband’s got a great eye.

    Pleasant encounters like this break up our daily meanderings. We have a chaste, fleeting bond. As a result it can’t advance, it can’t take the upper hand. He’s a good man, he loves my friend and their children.

    I’m content with a firm embrace even though I don’t share my life with anyone. Two kisses on the cheeks, a short walk along a stretch of road. Without saying a word to each other we know that, if we chose to, we could venture into something reckless, also pointless.

    This morning he’s distracted. He doesn’t recognize me until I’m right in front of him. He’s crossing a bridge at one end and I’m arriving from the other. We stop in the middle and...

About the Author-
  • JHUMPA LAHIRI is the author of four works of fiction: Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland; and a work of nonfiction, In Other Words. She has received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize; the PEN/Hemingway Award; the PEN/Malamud Award; the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award; the Premio Gregor von Rezzori; the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature; a 2014 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama; and the Premio Internazionale Viareggio-Versilia, for In altre parole.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2020

    Written in Italian and translated by the author into English, Lahiri's first novel since 2013's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Lowland follows a woman over a year as she restlessly walks her city, finding some solace in the streets, bars, and piazzas. But she's torn between wanting and resisting connection to others, including a mysterious man readers know only as "him." A stylistic and ideational game changer.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 18, 2021
    The latest from Pulitzer winner Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies) is a meditative and aching snapshot of a life in suspension. The unnamed narrator, a single, middle-aged woman, lives a quiet life in an unnamed Italian city, ambling between cafes and storefronts, dinner parties with friends, and a leisurely career as a writer and teacher. The tranquil surface of her life belies a deeper unrest: a frayed, distant relationship with her widowed mother, romantic longings projected onto unavailable friends, and constant second-guessing of the paths her life has taken. The novel is told in short vignettes introducing a new scene and characters whose relationships are fertile ground for Lahiri’s impressive powers of observation. In a museum, for instance, sunlight refracted through the glass roof “brightens and darkens the room in turns. It’s a panorama that makes me think of the sea, of swimming in a clear blue patch underwater.” Throughout, Lahiri’s poetic flourishes and spare, conversational prose are on full display. This beautifully written portrait of a life in passage captures the hopes, frustrations, and longings of solitude and remembrance.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2021
    Lahiri's passion for Italian inspired her to write In Other Words (2016), her first nonfiction book, in that language; to translate two novels by Italian writer Domenico Starnone, and to write this novel in Italian, then translate it into English. The result of this process is language that seems to have been sieved through a fine mesh, each word a gleaming gemstone. Such expressive refinement perfectly embodies Lahiri's unnamed, solitary narrator, a woman in her forties who teaches at a university and lives alone in an unnamed Italian city. Declaring, "Solitude: it's become my trade," she examines her life in first person vignettes, each yoked to her whereabouts in chapters with such titles as "In the Piazza," "In My Head," and "On the Couch." There is melancholy here, but these concentrated, exquisitely detailed, poignant, and rueful episodes also pulse with the narrator's devotion to observation and her pushing through depression to live on her terms. She muses over her "unhappy origins" and recounts her disappointing love life, but she also exalts in her lively neighborhood, in the country beneath skies as moody as she is, and by the tempestuous sea, all while recording her stealthy battle against her tendency to burrow into her shell. With a painterly interplay of light and shadows, Lahiri creates an incisive and captivating evocation of the nature and nexus of place and self.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Lahiri's acclaim and literary intrepidness will lure fiction lovers to her first novel since The Lowland (2013), a Man Booker finalist.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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