Short story writing and garden making: Topia and heterotopia in Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ (Unaccustomed Earth) | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Short Fiction as World Literature
  • ISSN: 2043-0701
  • E-ISSN: 2043-071X

Abstract

‘Unaccustomed Earth’ presents us with an instance of dis-location that is not just connected with geographical displacement but with a melancholy that runs deep in Lahiri’s fiction. Somewhat unexpectedly, dis-location also works as a force that challenges fixity and inertia and becomes part and parcel of a process of mourning. This article proposes to approach Lahiri’s story through the notion of heterotopia, which Foucault defines as a paradoxical place, a place which is real, unlike utopia, yet ‘outside all places’. In the opening story of the collection, it is a garden created from scratch by a child and his grandfather which offers a beautiful example of how place itself may be displaced and efface itself behind place-making. Lahiri’s story challenges the too obvious association of the garden with rootedness and disturbs the binary opposition between place and placelessness: as it is, the garden that is being shaped means something different and works differently for everyone, opening a space not just for expectations but for the indeterminate and the unexpected. Just like the small patch of earth it contains, the limited space of the short story turns out to encompass far more than what appeared at first. Firmly inscribed in a part of the world that can be placed on a map, Lahiri’s story also detaches itself from that particular location as its metafictional and intertextual dimensions assert themselves with greater clarity.

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/journals/10.1386/fict_00085_1
2024-02-14
2024-05-29
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

References

  1. Bhabha, H. K. (1994), The Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Blanchot, M. (1981), ‘La voix narrative (le “il”, le neutre)’, De Kafka à Kafka, Paris: Folio Essais and Gallimard.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Chatterjee, A. (2013), ‘The short story in articulating diasporic subjectivities in Jhumpa Lahiri’, in M. Awadalla and P. March-Russell (eds), The Postcolonial Short Story, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 96110.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. De Certeau, M. (1990), L’invention du quotidien, 1: arts de faire, Paris: Folio Essais and Gallimard.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Didi-Huberman, G. (2001), Génie du non-lieu, Paris: Éditions de Minuit.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Foucault, M. (2009), Le Corps utopique: Les Hétérotopies, Paris: Éditions Lignes.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Knight, K. T. (2017), ‘Placeless places: Resolving the paradox of Foucault’s heterotopia’, Textual Practice, 31:1, pp. 14158.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Lahiri, J. ([2008] 2009), Unaccustomed Earth, London: Bloomsbury.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Mianowski, M. (2020), ‘Making room: Place and placelessness in Jhumha Lahiri’s “Hema and Kaushik” in Unaccustomed Earth’, Commonwealth Essays and Studies, 42:2, p. 2, https://doi.org/10.4000/ces.2172.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Munos, D. (2013), After Melancholia: A Reappraisal of Second-Generation Diasporic Subjectivity in the Work of Jhumpa Lahiri, Amsterdam: Rodopi.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Poe, E. A. ([1844] 2020), ‘The Purloined Letter’, The Complete Tales and Poems, New York: Rock Point.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Tibi, P. (1995), ‘La nouvelle: essai de compr.hension d’un genre’, Cahiers de l’Universit. de Perpignan: Aspects de la nouvelle, 18:1, pp. 978.
    [Google Scholar]
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/journals/10.1386/fict_00085_1
Loading
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error