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The Namesake: A Portrait of the Film Based on the Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (Newmarket Pictorial Moviebooks)
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Original essays and glorious photography, stunningly designed in this unique moviebook from the director of Monsoon Wedding and Vanity Fair°™a Fox Searchlight release.

In her essay "Writing and Film," the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri writes about the experience of seeing her novel "transposed" from paper to film. "Its essence remains, but it inhabits a different realm and must, like a transposed piece of music, conform to a different set of rules°≠.To have someone as devoted and as gifted as Mira reinvent my novel°≠has been a humbling and thrilling passage."

Mira Nair's essay, "Photographs as Inspiration," begins with the provocative comment: "If it weren't for photography, I wouldn't be a filmmaker." She explains how photographs help her crystallize the visual style of her films and which particular photos influenced her vision for The Namesake.

These two essays, written exclusively for this Newmarket Pictorial Moviebook, introduce an amazing panoply of images of people and places shot mainly in New York and Calcutta during the making of the movie, accented by excerpts from Lahiri's bestselling novel. Six Indian and American photographers' works are represented.

Brilliantly illuminating the immigrant experience and the tangled ties between generations, The Namesake tells the story of the Ganguli family, whose move from Calcutta to New York evokes a lifelong balancing act to adapt to a new world while remembering the old. The couple's firstborn, Gogol, and sister Sonia grow up amid these divided loyalties, struggling to find their own identity without losing their heritage. Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Superman Returns) stars as Gogol.

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

Customer Reviews:

  • This from a Pulitzer winning author?
    I have to admit I was surprised at the accolades heaped on this is simply a bland but well-written description of an immigrant family experience in America, a theme previously touched by numerous Indian-American authors (such as Bharati Mukerjee). I felt that the writing was very passive and disinterested, as if the author didnt feel the need to engage the reader with a more compelling storyline, and who instead felt that a quaint description of an exotic cultural experience would suffice to make it a worthwhile read.

    And I couldnt help comparing this book to another novel released at the same time which also delves into immigrant experience but within the context of a gripping, heartwrenching story--The Kite Runner (which has received over 200 reviews in Amazon). There, the reader was able to appreciate the Afghani culture and historical context as the author deftly combines it with his storytelling. In the Namesake, the reader is put in the position of an anthropologist, curiously observing a culture from outside. An Indian friend of mine, majoring in Sociology, jokingly referred to the Namesake as a dissertation in immigrant experience. Interestingly, none of my Indian-American friends thought highly of the book! ...more info
  • Nice read

    The Namesake. The central character of this book is Gogol Ganguli - who is born to Bengali parents gone to the US. Gogol is son to Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli who had an arranged, traditional Bengali wedding in the 1960s. They start their family in the US - one son and one daughter. Ashoke keeps his son's name as Gogol - a name that Gogol has to live with his entire life - whether he likes it or not.

    The book revolves around how difficult at times it becomes for Gogol Ganguli to be a part of India and being accepted as an American. All this even though he is a very bright student and also settles, pretty decently, as an architect. He has had pretty girlfriends. Still.

    I have also watched the movie - by the same name - based on the novel. The movie too is very closely made on the lines of this book and I could remember movie scenes as I read through the book.

    This is a book that is recommended to be read.
    ...more info
  • Started out good, but fizzled
    I read Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" and very much enjoyed it, so I was looking foward to "The Namesake". This book started out good, but by the time Gogol started dating, I was bored. There is too much detail about Gogal and his girlfriends. All that information about Maxine and her family was pointless. There are other times in the book where too much time is given to mundane stuff.
    I found myself rushing through the second half of the book just to get done....more info
  • An near-flawless effort by Lahiri
    Normally I do not watch movies before reading the book, which I did with The Namesake. Both get the highest praise. The film was one of the best of the year and the novel was almost perfect. Gagol's life is extremely typical of a first-generation American of Indian heritage. He faces the classic conflict of identity that comes with being a child of minority immigrants is the U.S. I wish there were more novels like The Namesake to counter the anti-immigrant bias that is taking sadly taking over the country. ...more info
  • A wonderful read
    Beautifully written, captivating characters, great story. So wonderful my husband read it after I did and felt the same. ...more info
  • Great Book to understand Immigrant life in United States
    One of my friend suggested this book and it was a very good book but a slow read.
    I could relate to the book since I am a first generation non-immigrant and my daughter is an indian-american, but I guess she will be addressed as "ABCD" ( American born confused desi).

    Jhumpa portrayal of the characters, Gogol's dad, Ashima and Gogol, Gogol's girlfriends and Gogol's ex-wife all serve a purpose and tell us about life and the choices we make.

    Reading the book was a culture shock for me since it was really hard to understand the pre-marital sex with different women and also the post marital affair by Gogol's wife.
    But by the time I finished the book,I could really understand the way of life and the choices people make to get there.

    I was really shocked when Gogol's dad a flash...

    This book made me realize that we don't have control over anything, life in general, kids, parents, relationships etc...

    A very good book to read and to understand the relationships from an immigrant's perspective..

    ...more info
  • A Great Read
    I am quite taken with the writings of J. Lahiri, so this addition to my collection just heightened my admiration and love of her writing. Thank goodness we have the continuation of some wonderful thinkers and writers in this world! Carolyn Foy-Stromberg...more info
  • Always An Immigrant
    Ah, all so familiar, so throughly, disturbingly and sadly familiar! Once an immigrant, always an immigrant. Nice and easy reading, very direct but intimate at the same time. Clash is within the individuals, as well as beween the cultures this time.

    I also have to admit there is a refreshing sincere and genuine quality to her writing style, so sorely missing from many of the UK-groomed Indian writers....more info
  • A name is a name is a name is a....
    Every good Italian worth her weight in pasta knows that March 19 is the Feast of Saint Joseph. The Italians revere Saint Joseph in the same way the Mexicans have a soft spot for the Virgin Mary. And so every March 19, two days after my second generation Irish mother had boiled the cabbage and corned beef in honor of Saint Patrick, she would find herself once again in the kitchen this time to make for my father, a first generation Italian, one of his favorite desserts. Year after year, like another birthday on our family's calendar, the Feast of Saint Joseph was celebrated (san bougies) with ®¶clairs, cream puffs, a rich chocolate cake, or a perfect cocoanut cream pie, whatever my father pleased. For this saint, the widower of the New Testament who became the father to Christ, was also my father's namesake.

    And because Joseph was my father's namesake, it became my brothers' namesake as well. According to Italian tradition, or so my grandmother instructed, the first son is named for his father as my father had been. Although my mother was gracious in accepting instruction from my grandmother when it came to spicing up her spaghetti sauce, she was not afraid to ask for terms when it came to naming her children. A compromise was reached, and while my oldest brother was baptized with his father's name, it was understood that this first son would be known to the world by his middle name--a separate name--instead. My younger brother was thus freed from this tradition by his place in the birth order; nevertheless, he is linked to this humble carpenter and the celebrations of March 19 because Joseph became his middle name.

    Proof, indeed, that we are more than who we say we are.
    Enter our dear Gogol in Lahiri's tale, whose first name belongs to an entirely different story of family and tradition. Caught in his own personal mess of growing up, and growing away from all of the customs his parents' immigrant world represents, Gogol comes to believe that changing his name will liberate him from a past he no longer wishes to understand. When he discovers for himself that there is no such thing as a perfect name, Gogol concludes that until we reach eighteen and can undertake the task of naming ourselves, pronouns should prevail. And yet, if we never heard our names held safely on our parents' tongues, then, where exactly would our stories begin? How would we come to know who we were meant to be? After all, we rarely go forward without going back. For we are, all of us, the heirs of Epictetus' compass whose needle points eternally home.

    Like a good porter, Lahiri leads us through this first-generation story with great tenderness and a reverence for that someplace else where some of us began. She reminds us that our destination is just as often a surprise as it is something we can plan. Lahiri underscores this central theme by giving Gogol, son and heir to all that was not planned, a name that is the result of two accidents. And in all of Gogol's attempts to reconcile what was something unintended, we learn right along with him that, more often than not, it is the randomness that constitutes our lives. We are all wanderers not certain of our names, our countries of origin, our birthright. None of it belongs to us anyway, according to Rumi. Our real country, he wrote many centuries ago, is not where we are but where we are heading.
    ...more info
  • A wonderful novel
    This past spring I saw the film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's THE NAMESAKE. I enjoyed the film so much I decided to read the novel the film was based on.

    THE NAMESAKE revolves around the Ganguli family. Ashoke and his wife Ashima had immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s in search of a better life. Ashoke had taken a job as a teacher at MIT. The couple has two children son Gogol (who was named after Nikolai Gogol) and daughter Sonia. Most of the book revolves around the couple's son Gogol who grows up being taught traditional Indian culture in America. Eventually Gogol becomes conflicted between his parents' roots and his American roots.

    I personally enjoyed the book more than the film (although it was quite good). The book delves more into Gogol's life as a young man which parts were not included in the film. There were moments in the story when it veered off into soap opera territory which I didn't particularly care for. I also didn't like how women were written by the author. I didn't think they were fleshed out enough by the author to make them remotely likeable or compelling enough. For all its foibles, THE NAMESAKE was a great read for me. ...more info
  • Wonderful Book
    I loved the book, it showed the different cultures between India and
    USA. The Husband easily adapted with his work and associates. The wife
    missed her family and had difficulty making friends until she had a child.
    Our book club read this and enjoyed it....more info
  • A Gem
    Beautifully and gently written, this book holds and builds your interest as you read on. It is a study, on one level, of people from India in the USA; on another level, it is a wonderful study of the life history of families everywhere. Highly recommended (and I am completely baffled by the low-star review here). The movie is also excellent, but I think you must read the book first, because the movie cannot capture all the nuances of the fine writing in the book. Her volume of short stories, which I read after this, is also a joy, and I eagerly await her next book....more info
  • Lovely and haunting
    The Namesake is a compelling examination of the immigrant experience, but it's more than that. Lahiri does a beautiful job of letting her characters slowly unfold over the course of the story. The characters and the overall feel of the story stayed with me for a long time afterwards. I would definitely read more of Lahiri's work....more info
  • a good read
    This is a great story of culture, family, and identity which are some important elements to most human beings and Lahiri brought that to this book. Novel centers around a family who lives in a different culture than their own and is forced to accept something different and apply to their lives. Good writing from the author and very entertaining story....more info
  • An interesting cultural read.
    Funny and heart warming story in which the parents try to hang on to their culture while raising an American son. Entertaining and enjoyable....more info
  • wonderful book
    Detailed and precise in it's beauty. A simple story about complicated people. Well told and engaging....more info
  • nice but unspectacular novel
    this novel bears the unfortunate burden of living up to expectations created by its pullitzer prize winning predecessor. i did not read the previous book, to be clear, but knowing Lahiri won a pullitzer for it, made me give this a try when a friend lent it to me.

    from this readers' perspective, it is a perfectly good novel -- interesting, thoughtful, well-written. but nor is it great, in my view. certainly not pullitzer calibre. perhaps the previous book was much better or maybe lahiri, a beginning author, is getting overhyped. the writing is good, but not good enough to stand out among other top novelists. equally, the immigrant/generational story is interesting but i did not gain any great insight here or find myself moved the way i am by my favorite novels.
    in fairness to lahiri, this is her first novel and i think the hype has done her a disservice.
    ...more info
  • Caught between two cultures
    "The Namesake" is the story of Gogol Ganguli, a man born to Indian parents who moved to America shortly after they were married. Gogol's name has always been a source of deep resentment for him, as it is neither Indian or American. Eventually Gogol opts to have his name legally changed before he leaves for college. In addition to adjusting to his new name, Gogol continues with a struggle he's faced his entire life: How to relate to and maintain his Indian culture while living on American soil. Gogol rejects most things about his heritage, preferring to lead a more "Americanized" lifestyle. His choices create a barrier between him and his family, but try as he might, Gogol never feels completely at ease within the American culture, either. He establishes a successful career for himself and has has several serious relationships, but Gogol never really finds a comfortable place for himself in this world. Eventually he finds happiness with an Indian woman, of all people, who relates to him on so many levels. However, Moushumi has her own way of rebelling, and at the end of the novel we find Gogol back at the very place his life began, where he begins to rediscover himself.

    I fell in love with this book after reading the first few pages, and I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed it even more than author Jhumpa Lahiri's collection of short stories, "Interpreter of Maladies." Lahiri writes in a simple yet emotional style that is rich in detail. Although the novel revolves around Gogol, Lahiri occasionally shifts perspective and gives the reader a glimpse of the story from the eyes of Gogol's parents and Moushumi. All of the characters make a lot of mistakes, but I was able to easily relate to and empathize with each of them.

    This is a book about family, identity, heritage, and self-discovery. You don't have to be the child of immigrants in order to relate to the process of pulling apart from your family and discovering the person you're destined to become. I think this book has something to offer everyone, and it also happens to be a beautiful, poignant story. "The Namesake" is a must-read....more info
  • Writing Through the Senses
    The Namesake is about struggling to find ourselves: our roots, our longings, and some definition of meaning and purpose in our lives.

    The main character, Gogol, stumbles through life doing just that. He rejects and is utterly embarrassed by his family's Indian traditions and searches mindlessly through failed relationships, marriage, and superficial friendships. Nothing appears to satisfy Gogol, nothing fills his unquenchable void, and in the meantime he misses out on truly getting to recognize his true traditions, heritage, and family.

    Gogol's father names him after his favorite author, which is either an American name or an Indian name. This appalls Gogol and he suffers (needlessly) searching for his true self. His prestigious job, money, and shallow relationships cannot save him. And still he doesn't change.

    This is a universal story of how our history pursues us wherever we go and the expectations our parents desire from us. We cannot run from our origins or hide from our deep roots, which intertwine within us. Gogol, thank goodness, begins to realize this at the end of the book before it's too late when he picks up a book given to him by his father.

    They say one must show- not tell, and Jhumpa Lahiri brings the reader inside the pages with all the senses-- taste, smell, texture, sight, and sound. The details of her writing are astounding and gorgeously present. The reader will smell the curry and onions frying and taste the spices upon their tongues.

    **Beautiful until the last delicious page.**
    ...more info
  • Fun to read
    The story, in general, was about the lives of Bengali migrants, how they fit in their new surroundings, and how their children reacted to Bengali traditions and customs. It is quite similar to a few other books before it. But The Namesake is written well and reading it is every bit as enjoyable as watching a movie. It is a little "chick-lit" but I liked it....more info
  • Lahiri takes you deep into Bengali culture, American culture and all that brings to fore.
    We meet a couple who are married and must set off to America for better employment. They are quite young. Soon, they have kids, he has a job at MIT and she stays at home. It sounds tame but the tale is exquisite in the detail it uses to describe common staples of Bengali life, American life, the issues immigrants and first generations face. All the characters are loveable even when they are lost. You become shocking intimiate with them all before you turn the last page. Their family haunts you because while you read, you became that immigrant mother worrying about her son dating an American. It's a great tale of immigration, assimilation, struggling between cultures. ...more info
  • the struggle with traditions
    I just finished reading "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri and I am still trying to figure out if I liked it or not. There was no story, per say. There was no mysterie to solve, no one to really root for, no hero. The story is a 30 year slice of life of the Ganguli family - how the husband and wife married, how the wife joined her husband in America while he was in school, them having children and the children growing up. The book was slow, sometimes even boring and it was easy for me to not like the main character, Gogol (the son), because he was never happy about anything and he was always whining to himself about something. But through all this, Lahiri is illustrating the importance of traditions and how they can be simultaneously comforting, necessary, burdening and sometimes hated. This, I believe, is what Lahiri is trying to show her readers. I ended up really liking this book, but it didn't move fast enough for me and at times felt like a chore. The content of traditions and family values and relations is in there - in fact it is quite strong at times, however the way that Lahiri presented it was too slow for me to want to seek out her other works. One thing that stood out for me with this book though, was the food. Lahiri made me so hungry in the way she described the food in how it was prepared and what was in it, describing how it tasted and what it looked like. I wrote down some of the foods so that I can look them up and try them out....more info
  • A great read
    I was sad to let Gogol go at the end, which, for me, is always the mark of a good story. This book also got me interested in other Indian authors and I am now reading "Red Earth, Pouring Rain," another good read. ...more info
  • Beautiful Writing
    As with Interpreter of Maladies I found Lahiri's writing wonderfully fluid and realistic. It is not over the top or strained. I found myself easily immersed in the world of the Gangulis. It's not a flashy book, but it rings true to the struggles that second generation children often face. However, Lahiri never lets the reader become too close to Gogol. As realistic as he was and as much as I related to his own struggles, he wasn't a literary character that I loved. ...more info
  • A compelling read
    The Namesake is an excellent intergenerational coming of age story. The story was so compelling that I found the book difficult to put down. Highly recommended to someone looking for a thoughtful summer read....more info
  • An impressive, moving novel steeped in real life
    Author Jhumpa Lahiri is a gifted storyteller, and in "The Namesake", she uses this keen eye to deftly explore family life, relationships, the immigrant experience, finding ones true identity, culture clashing, and the nature of love. The novel explores the roots and path of the Ganguli family. Newlyweds by arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, leave their extended family and life behind in Calcutta to move to America in the late 1960's. Soon she gives birth to a son, and tradition and the new world, as it were, begin to clash. Their son, Gogol, named after the Russian writer, holds a great burden, and responsibility with this name. But as a teen he is embarrassed by it, and eventually turns his back on his given name. But years will pass before he truly understands the import and history it carries. As his parents navigate their life in the US, keeping a strong sense of their culture and past, it conflicts with Gogol and his sister who identify as American. There is conflict, triumph, tragedy, discovery, comedy, love, lust, and above all, very beautiful and true moments that define family and all cultures. With exceptional writing this novel is both an engaging story and a beautifully written novel that touches the reader with a powerful and authentic voice. ...more info
  • Disappointing
    Friends say that I should have read "Interpreter of Maladies" first, since this book isn't a reflection of the author's real talent. Unfortunately, I was so disappointed by this book that it will take quite a nudge to get me to read her earlier books.
    This book is boring, prose uninspired and characters one dimensional. What did I learn about the characters? Only Gogol's parents were half-way interesting and all we get about them is present tense, descriptive reporting on their past and current lives. Even family death in this book reads like a newspaper report. The excrutiating detail of quotidian trivialites and what seemed like product placement forced me to skim paragraph after paragraph for the few existing, relevent bits of information from which to glean anything to make me care. As an immigrant's tale of living between two cultures it's been done many times better, many times before. Non-plot driven books don't have to be boring and I don't require an exciting page turner as long as there is some depth and talent in the writing. The author inserts "knowing" bits of local (mostly geographical) data about Boston, Calcutta, Yale and New York throughout the book, I'm not sure why. To prove she's been there? She utterly failed at evoking the torn "between-two-worlds" of her characters, and her descriptions of their physical surroundings can be found in any tour book or popular culture magazine advertisement....more info
  • enchanting
    I loved this book. I had seen the movie and was inspired to read the book and I was glad I did. ...more info
  • A great and superbly written story
    Jhumpa Lahiri writes about a very interesting and commonly neglected new American phenomenon: the rise of the Indian-American middle class.

    This book is about cultures, values, life and death, love and misery. It is about America. It is about India. It is also universal.

    Lahiri writes with style and elegance. Despite the verbose, I was engaged in the story and how it unfolded. "Namesake" is a great reading. ...more info
  • Aspiring Yuppies Indian-style
    Being a great fan of Lahiri's short fiction, for example, A Temporary Matter, I found none of that complexity in this novel. There is no plot in terms of conflict or dilemma -- the biggest mover of the book is time passing. While the parents' experience at assimilation was interesting, their nostalgia for India very sympathetic, the children were flat characters. Gogol's most compelling conflict is if he'll dump his family for his girlfriend's idealized WASP family (painted in the label-conscious colors of a Ralph Lauren ad). It was fascinating to learn along with Gogol that one simply doesn't use parmesan cheese on seafood pasta, but if one is looking for serious literary complexity and heart, find nourishment elsewhere....more info
  • not as good as the short story collections
    The Namesake, the first novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, is written
    in a deceptively simple style. It is a very well crafter novel that
    both explores the role of Indians in America, and tells the
    story of a family over several decades.
    Unfortunately, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed
    by the novel. Lahiri's collection of stories, "The Interpreter
    of Maladies" had a much larger impact on me. A version of "The Namesake"
    also appeared as a short story in The New Yorker, and I liked that
    version far better. I agree that Lahiri is among the best writers in
    the US currently, but short stories are her definite strength....more info
  • Tale of a 1st generation Indian immigrant - different!
    I read this book because my daughter's freshman college class was asked to read it, so I knew it must be something pretty special. It's not a book I would have been likely to pick up otherwise.

    Though my grandfather was a first generation Italian, I think the book was so unique to me because I knew very little about the Indian culture.

    It was a beautifully told story and portrayed well the tension that a first generation American feels, wanting to fit in and sometimes ashamed of his parents' eccentricities, yet grateful for the sacrifices they've made to provide for their children.

    Worth the read!...more info