cover image Roman Stories

Roman Stories

Jhumpa Lahiri, trans. from the Italian by the author and Todd Portnowitz. Knopf, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-53632-2

Lahiri (Whereabouts) delivers a dazzling collection of nine stories originally written in Italian and featuring characters who grapple with vast emotional and social chasms that cleave the lives of families, longtime friends, and immigrants. In “The Reentry,” two friends, an Italian woman in mourning for her father and a visiting professor, meet at a trattoria where the woman downplays the racially tinged slights her dark-skinned friend endures from the owners, forever altering the friendship. “The Steps” paints a tableau of contemporary Rome centered on a staircase that functions as the beating heart of a neighborhood—a mother ascends the stairway on her way to a job minding someone else’s children while thinking about the 13-year-old son she left in another country; later, a teenage child of immigrants imagines for an instant she is one of the girls in miniskirts who congregate on the steps to smoke cigarettes. Throughout, Lahiri’s luminous prose captures a side of Rome often ignored: “Empty plastic cups on their sides sway from right to left like the bright beam of a lighthouse that flashes methodically over black water.” These unembroidered yet potent stories shine. (Oct.)