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The Namesake

Jhumpa Lahiri

204,485 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0007258917 / ISBN 13: 9780007258918
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, New Delhi, India, 2012
New Condition: New Soft cover
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A Bengali couple have their first child in Massachusetts, far away from home. The husband, Ashoke Ganguli, is studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The young wife feels lost in an alien land with no one around to help her and no friend she could call on for comfort. The young boy has to be named. It is the tradition in Bengali families to have an elder person in the family select the name. This privilege has been assigned to Ashima’s grandmother. But the couple discover that they cannot leave the hospital without naming the child first. So, Ashoke chooses the name of his favorite Russian author, Gogol, as the name of his child, and they go home. Ashima’s grandmother dies before she can choose a name for her great grandson. So, the boy remains Gogol. Initially, the child likes his name, when he enters his teens, he begins to resent it. His dislike for the name increases as he progresses towards high school. Before leaving for higher studies, he formally changes his name to Nikhil. He is now Nikhil Gogol Ganguli. Ashoke has another reason for choosing the name Gogol for his son, but he does not explain that reason to him, thinking the boy would not understand. Meanwhile, the boy is identifying himself more with the American life rather than the Indian way of life, much to his mother’s chagrin. He returns home for the holidays. On the way, his train is stopped for a while due to an accident. Ashoke, who is anxiously waiting at the station to receive him, finally tells him the main reason he named him Gogol. Before his marriage, Ashoke was involved in a train accident. Lying in the middle of the wreck with a broken back, he had only been saved because a page from the Gogol novel he had been reading was sticking up from his hand like a flag attracting the attention of the rescue crew. Gogol asks his father why he was not told this before, and the incident initiates a change in his attitude. He begins regretting having changed his name, and slowly starts to rethink the way he is living his life. His father’s death sometime later accelerates the change, and he begins to spend more time with his family. His life changes in many ways after that, but he feels comforted by the thought that his father told him why he chose the name Gogol, before he died. The book ends with Gogol picking up a set of books by the Russian author that his father liked so much, symbolizing that Gogol is now comfortable with his own identity. The novel was made into a movie of the same name by Mira Nair. Printed Pages: 291. Size: 14 Cms x 22 Cms. Bookseller Inventory # 037942

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Namesake

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, New Delhi, India

Publication Date: 2012

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

Edition: Twelfth Impression.

About this title

Synopsis:

namesake, the

Review:

Any talk of The Namesake--Jhumpa Lahiri's follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning debut, Interpreter of Maladies--must begin with a name: Gogol Ganguli. Born to an Indian academic and his wife, Gogol is afflicted from birth with a name that is neither Indian nor American nor even really a first name at all. He is given the name by his father who, before he came to America to study at MIT, was almost killed in a train wreck in India. Rescuers caught sight of the volume of Nikolai Gogol's short stories that he held, and hauled him from the train. Ashoke gives his American-born son the name as a kind of placeholder, and the awkward thing sticks.

Awkwardness is Gogol's birthright. He grows up a bright American boy, goes to Yale, has pretty girlfriends, becomes a successful architect, but like many second-generation immigrants, he can never quite find his place in the world. There's a lovely section where he dates a wealthy, cultured young Manhattan woman who lives with her charming parents. They fold Gogol into their easy, elegant life, but even here he can find no peace and he breaks off the relationship. His mother finally sets him up on a blind date with the daughter of a Bengali friend, and Gogol thinks he has found his match. Moushumi, like Gogol, is at odds with the Indian-American world she inhabits. She has found, however, a circuitous escape: "At Brown, her rebellion had been academic ... she'd pursued a double major in French. Immersing herself in a third language, a third culture, had been her refuge--she approached French, unlike things American or Indian, without guilt, or misgiving, or expectation of any kind." Lahiri documents these quiet rebellions and random longings with great sensitivity. There's no cleverness or showing-off in The Namesake, just beautifully confident storytelling. Gogol's story is neither comedy nor tragedy; it's simply that ordinary, hard-to-get-down-on-paper commodity: real life. --Claire Dederer

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