Obama Honours Jhumpa Lahiri with National Humanities Medal


Washington: Renowned Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri was presented with the 2014 National Medals of Arts and Humanities by US president Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on Thursday.

“I always do good with writers and scientists. Those are my crew,” said the president during his address. He then quoted the writer Emily Dickinson and picked at the political class.

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“One of our great poets, Emily Dickinson, once said that ‘truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it.’ The truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it — and that’s especially true in Washington,” he said amid laughter.

“The 2014 National Humanities Medal to Jhumpa Lahiri for enlarging the human story. In her works of fiction, Dr. Lahiri has illuminated the Indian American experience in beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging,” read the aide as Lahiri received the award amid applause.

The humanities medal honours an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources. Lahiri’s novel “The Lowland” was among the books Obama took with him while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, an island summer resort in Massachusetts, last month. “The Lowland” is a story about two brothers who grew up in Calcutta in the 1960s. After one is killed, the other marries his pregnant widow and moves to the US. The New York Times calls the premise of this novel “startlingly operatic”.