Roman Stories

Jhumpa Lahiri & Todd Portnowitz

Roman Stories
Format
Paperback
Publisher
Pan Macmillan
Country
United Kingdom
Published
10 October 2023
Pages
224
ISBN
9781035017560

Roman Stories

Jhumpa Lahiri & Todd Portnowitz

From the internationally bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies comes an exquisitely crafted work of fiction. Jhumpa Lahiri sets her gaze on the eternally beautiful city, illuminating the frailties of the human condition and dissecting lives lived on the margins.

A man recalls a summer party that awakens an alternative version of himself. A couple haunted by a tragic loss return to seek consolation. An outsider family is pushed out of the block in which they hoped to settle. A set of steps in a Roman neighbourhood connects the daily lives of the city's myriad inhabitants. This is an evocative fresco of Rome, the most alluring character of all: contradictory, in constant transformation and a home to those who know they can't fully belong but choose it anyway.

Rich with Lahiri's signature gifts, Roman Stories is a masterful work from one of the finest writers of our time.

Translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri and Todd Portnowitz

Review

For the uninitiated, Roman Stories is just the kind of short story collection you’d expect from Pulitzer Prize-winning multi-lingual author Jhumpa Lahiri.

Originally written in Italian and then translated into English, Roman Stories gives us a snippet of the lives of people living in modern-day Rome. While we never learn anyone’s name, each character is identified by their role in life or work: friend, mother, expat, wife, professor, screenwriter, and so on.

In some stories, we peer into the lives of people who were born and raised in Rome or broader Italy. Their intentions might initially be good as they do innocuous things like go on holidays or attend dinner parties, but there is often an act of transgression which pulls them (or the reader) out of their reverie.

Lahiri contrasts this with stories of migrants who deal with either overt or covert racism in their day-to-day lives. In one particularly touching story, a man finds a place of unexpected solace after he and his family are subjected to racial abuse in their neighbourhood.

In a way, the city of Rome is also a character itself, and while landmarks or street names aren’t explicitly stated, we might find ourselves thinking of similarities in our own hometowns.

While Lahiri loves to play witness (one of her characters discreetly watches a family holidaying next door), she often subverts our expectations of where lightness and darkness can be found.

Overall, this is a meditative read filled with Lahiri’s simple, clear language, poetic sensibility, and a gentle reminder to find peace and joy no matter who you are or where you come from.

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