‘A Temporary Matter’ by Jhumpa Lahiri

Shoba and Shukumar are notified that the electricity in their quiet tree-lined street will be cut off for five evenings, so that a line can be fixed. Having suffered a tragedy that has pulled them apart, the power cut draws them together again: “Something happened when the house was dark. They were able to talk to each other again.” They play a “game”: they sit in the dark, exchanging confessions. I love the details in this story – Shukumar being borne away to a conference in a “cavernous” cab; Shoba correcting typographical errors with an “arsenal of coloured pencils”, “behind her barricade of files”; Shukumar’s dissertation on agrarian revolts in India – their precision anticipating the awful injury inflicted on the final night.

First published in The New Yorker, April 1998, and available online for subscribers here. Collected in Interpreter of Maladies, Flamingo, 1999

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