Cover image for
Title:
The lowland : a novel
Author(s):
Lahiri, Jhumpa.
ISBN/ISSN:
9780307265746

0307265749
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
340 pages ; 24 cm
Abstract:
Brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra pursue vastly different lives--Udayan in rebellion-torn Calcutta, Subhash in a quiet corner of America--until a shattering tragedy compels Subhash to return to India, where he endeavors to heal family wounds.
Geographic Term:
Pub Date:
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
Holds:

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Summary

Summary

National Book Award Finalist

Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.
 
Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up.  But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan--charismatic and impulsive--finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind--including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.


Author Notes

Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London, England on July 11, 1967. She received a B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989, and a M.A. in English, a M.A. in Creative Writing, a M.A. in Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies from Boston University.

Lahiri taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her debut work, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000. She has also won the PEN/Hemmingway Award, an O. Henry Award, The New Yorker's best debut of the year award, and an Addison Metcalf award. Her other works include The Namesake, which was made into a movie in 2007, Unaccustomed Earth, and The Lowland, which won 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lahiri's (The Namesake) haunting second novel crosses generations, oceans, and the chasms that despair creates within families. Subhash and Udayan are brothers, 15 months apart, born in Calcutta in the years just before Indian independence and the country's partition. As children, they are inseparable: Subhash is the elder, and the careful and reserved one; Udayan is more willful and wild. When Subhash moves to the U.S. for graduate school in the late 1960s, he has a hard time keeping track of Udayan's involvement in the increasingly violent Communist uprising taking place throughout West Bengal. The only person who will eventually be able to tell Subhash, if not quite explain, what happened to his brother is Gauri, Udayan's love-match wife, of whom the brothers' parents do not approve. Forced by circumstances, Gauri and Subhash form their own relationship, one both intimate and distant, which will determine much of the rest of their adult lives. Lahiri's skill is reflected not only in her restrained and lyric prose, but also in her moving forward chronological time while simultaneously unfolding memory, which does not fade in spite of the years. A formidable and beautiful book. 350,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The clever Mitra brothers are inseparable even though Subhash is serious, cautious, and reliable, while Udayan is brash, impassioned, and rebellious. Both excel in their studies even though, thanks to Udayan, they get into mischief in their quiet, middle-class Calcutta enclave with its two adjacent ponds and water hyacinth-laced lowland, a gorgeously rendered landscape Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth, 2008) uses to profound effect. In college, Subhash studies chemistry, Udayan physics, but while Subhash prepares to go to America to earn his PhD, Udayan experiences a life-altering political awakening. It's the late 1960s, a time of international protest, and Udayan joins the Mao-inspired Naxalite movement, which demands justice for the poor. He also secretly marries self-reliant, scholarly Gauri. Subhash's indoctrination into American life and Rhode Island's seasons and seashore is bracing and mind-expanding, while Udayan's descent into the Naxalite underground puts him in grave danger. As shocking complexities, tragedies, and revelations multiply over the years, Lahiri astutely examines the psychological nuances of conviction, guilt, grief, marriage, and parenthood and delicately but firmly dissects the moral conundrums inherent in violent revolution. Renowned for her exquisite prose and penetrating insights, Lahiri attains new heights of artistry flawless transparency, immersive intimacy with characters and place in her spellbinding fourth book and second novel, a magnificent, universal, and indelible work of literature. An absolute triumph. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri's standing increases with each book, and this is her most compelling yet, hence the 350,000 first printing, national author tour, and major publicity campaign.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri's (The Interpreter of Maladies) unparalleled ability to transform the smallest moments into whole lives pinnacles in this extraordinary story of two brothers-so close that one is "the other side" of the other-coming of age in the political tumult of 1960s India. They are separated as adults, with Subhash, the elder, choosing an academic career in the United States and the more daring Udayan remaining in Calcutta, committed to correcting the inequities of his country. Udayan's political participation will haunt four generations, from his parents, who renounce the future, to his wife and his brother, who attempt to protect it, to the daughter and granddaughter who will never know him. VERDICT Lahiri is remarkable, achieving multilayered meaning in an act as simple as "banging the edge of the lid three or four times with a spoon, to break the seal"; her second novel and fourth title is deservedly one of this year's most anticipated books. Banal words of praise simply won't do justice; perhaps what is needed is a three-word directive: just read it. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian -BookDragon, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Normally she stayed on the balcony, reading, or kept to an adjacent room as her brother and Udayan studied and smoked and drank cups of tea. Manash had befriended him at Calcutta University, where they were both graduate students in the physics department. Much of the time their books on the behaviors of liquids and gases would sit ignored as they talked about the repercussions of Naxalbari, and commented on the day's events. The discussions strayed to the insurgencies in Indochina and in Latin American countries. In the case of Cuba it wasn't even a mass movement, Udayan pointed out. Just a small group, attacking the right targets. All over the world students were gaining momentum, standing up to exploitative systems. It was another example of Newton's second law of motion, he joked. Force equals mass times acceleration. Manash was skeptical. What could they, urban students, claim to know about peasant life? Nothing, Udayan said. We need to learn from them. Through an open doorway she saw him. Tall but slight of build, twenty-three but looking a bit older. His clothing hung on him loosely. He wore kurtas but also European-style shirts, irreverently, the top portion unbuttoned, the bottom untucked, the sleeves rolled back past the elbow. He sat in the room where they listened to the radio. On the bed that served as a sofa where, at night, Gauri slept. His arms were lean, his fingers too long for the small porcelain cups of tea her family served him, which he drained in just a few gulps. His hair was wavy, the brows thick, the eyes languid and dark. His hands seemed an extension of his voice, always in motion, embellishing the things he said. Even as he argued he smiled easily. His upper teeth overlapped slightly, as if there were one too many of them. From the beginning, the attraction was there. He never said anything to Gauri if she happened to brush by. Never glancing, never acknowledging that she was Manash's younger sister, until the day the houseboy was out on an errand, and Manash asked Gauri if she minded making them some tea. She could not find a tray to put the teacups on. She carried them in, nudging open the door to the room with her shoulder. Looking up at her an instant longer than he needed to, Udayan took his cup from her hands. The groove between his mouth and nose was deep. Clean-shaven. Still looking at her, he posed his first question. Where do you study? he asked. * Because she went to Presidency, and Calcutta University was just next door, she searched for him on the quadrangle, and among the bookstalls, at the tables of the Coffee House if she went there with a group of friends. Something told her he did not go to his classes as regularly as she did. She began to watch for him from the generous balcony that wrapped around the two sides of her grandparents' flat, overlooking the intersection where Cornwallis Street began. It became something for her to do. Then one day she spotted him, amazed that she knew which of the hundreds of dark heads was his. He was standing on the opposite corner, buying a packet of cigarettes. Then he was crossing the street, a cotton book bag over his shoulder, glancing both ways, walking toward their flat. She crouched below the filigree, under the clothes drying on the line, worried that he would look up and see her. Two minutes later she heard footsteps climbing the stairwell, and then the rattle of the iron knocker on the door of the flat. She heard the door being opened, the houseboy letting him in. It was an afternoon everyone, including Manash, happened to be out, and she'd been reading, alone. She wondered if he'd turn back, given that Manash wasn't there. Instead, a moment later, he stepped out onto the balcony. No one else here? he asked. She shook her head. Will you talk to me, then? The laundry was damp, some of her petticoats and blouses were clipped to the line. The material of the blouses was tailored to the shape of her upper torso, her breasts. He unclipped one of the blouses and put it further down the line to make room. He did this slowly, a mild tremor in his fingers forcing him to focus more than another person might on the task. Standing beside him, she was aware of his height, the slight stoop in his shoulders, the angle at which he held his face. He struck a match against the side of a box and lit a cigarette, cupping his whole hand over his mouth when he drew the cigarette to his lips. The houseboy brought out biscuits and tea. They overlooked the intersection, from four flights above. They stood beside one another, both of them leaning into the railing. Together they took in the stone buildings, with their decrepit grandeur, that lined the streets. Their tired columns, their crumbling cornices, their sullied shades. Her face was supported by the discreet barrier of her hand. his arm hung over the edge, the burning cigarette was in his fingers. The sleeves of his Punjabi were rolled up, exposing the veins running from his wrist to the crook of the elbow. They were prominent, the blood in them greenish gray, like a pointed archway below the skin. There was something elemental about so many human beings in motion at once: walking, sitting in buses and trams, pulling or being pulled along in rickshaws. One the other side of the street were a few gold and silver shops all in a row, with mirrored walls and ceilings. Always crowded with families, endlessly reflected, placing orders for wedding jewels. There was the press where they took clothes to be ironed. The store where Gauri bought her ink, her notebooks. Narrow sweet shops, where trays of confections were studded with flies. The paanwallah sat cross-legged at one corner, under a bare bulb, spreading white lime paste on stacks of betel leaves. A traffic constable stood at the center, in his helmet, on his little box. Blowing a whistle and waving his arms. The clamor of so many motors, of so many scooters and lorries and busses and cars, filled their ears. I like this view, he said. Excerpted from The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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