Roman Stories

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Other authorsJhumpa Lahiri (Translator), Todd Portnowitz (Translator)
Hardcover, 2023




Knopf (2023), 224 pages


"Nine mesmerizing stories saturated in the details of Roman life that showcase Jhumpa Lahiri's extraordinary range and virtuosity"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member nancyadair
I was feeling tired and the day had turned hot, so I stopped by a shady tree. From below, I looked up at its branches, the moss hanging in spots like little cascades, and I fell asleep with the irksome moths flitting in front of my eyes. The leaves above me trembled only faintly, and there was a
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kind of pollen burning my eyes. Through the gaps I could see the sky–not the vast presence that had greeted us every morning from the apartment, but a sky chewed up by the tree’s foliage, jagged little pieces, each of them different.”
from Well-Lit House in Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

The striking cover of Roman Stories made sense when I read those lines from “Well-Lit House.” Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories are like those jagged views of the sky, slices of lives, each different, but a part of a larger human experience like the sky that embraces us all. These characters have come to Italy to discover a new life. Many are immigrants seeking a better–and safer–world, only to discover that hatred lurks on these sun-drenched streets. Others adopted Rome as their home out of love.

“Were there people, in Dante’s time, condemned to have more than one life–that is, to never have one full life?” a woman asks. She splits her time between Rome and America, separated from her husband and alone. She was impelled to study Dante after, as a teenager, an admirer wrote her a letter which he signed Dante Alighieri. But he only loved her from afar, and her passion for him cost her a best friend. So, there was her life with her best friend, her dreaming of a lover, her studies of Dante, her going to Rome and staying to marry, the eventual disunion, her split life between teaching in America and returning to her beloved Rome.

But, isn’t that like life? We are many people, in many cities, with many loves over our span of years, discovering a new life over and over?

Each character experiences Rome in their own way, like the stairs in “The Steps” that rise up a hill in the hot sunshine mid-day, gleaming with the dust of broken glass. Teenagers hang there at night, and thieves. Six people climb or descend the stairs, each for their own reasons, with their own thoughts, with a different experience.

“This city is shit,” a character states; “But so damn beautiful.” These stories portray the ugly and the beautiful, and Rome becomes almost a mirror for life itself with its harms and joys.

Thanks to the publisher for a free book.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Jhumpa Lahiri is a master of the short story, known for her award-winning collections Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. For the past ten years, Lahiri has been living in Rome and writing in Italian. Roman Stories showcases that body of work, translated into English, and shows an
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author very much on top of her game.

These stories are mostly about the experience of immigrants in Rome. Some are expats with high-paying jobs; others are shopkeepers or service workers who may not have left their home country by choice. Themes of bigotry, economic disadvantage, and the disorientation inherent in adapting to another culture run through each narrative. Interestingly, Lahiri does not give her characters names, instead referring to them as “the wife” or other similar titles. The stories are tightly written, often with a gradual and surprising reveal about the characters. Just when you are wondering why “the wife” is behaving so strangely, Lahiri alludes indirectly to an incident in the past that sheds entirely new light on the characters and their situation.

Like any short story collection, some stories have greater impact than others, and this could differ from one reader to the next depending on which characters and situations you most identify with. This book is well worth your time, and I only hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for more of this from Jhumpa Lahiri.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Jhumpa Larhiri has written her first books in English and then for the last 10 years she has been writing in Italian and the last 2 books of hers that I have read have been English translations of her books written in Italian. It is a very impressive achievement but for me I enjoy her earlier books
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better. Perhaps, it is the subtle difference in the English translation versus a story originally written in English. These stories are written in a very straight forward style through the eyes different types of immigrants or foreign workers etc living in and around Rome. You get a good insight into how the various people deal with living in Italy and the lower their economic and immigration status the more discrimination they encounter. It is a solid group of short stories but if you have never read Lahiri then I recommend your start with "Interpreter of Maladies"(short stories) which won a Pulitzer Prize.
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