Comparison between Gogol,
by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Name by Aharon Megged.
The story The Name is about a pregnant woman named Raya who was debating what to name her baby. Her grandfather, Zisskind, left Europe with his daughter Rachel right before the Holocaust began. Zisskind's grandson Mendele, and the rest of his family, were murdered in the Holocaust. Every single visit, Rachels daughter Raya would visit Zisskind, her grandfather. Zisskind would tell her the story of Mendele and show her pictures of him and letters that he wrote. Later, when Raya was going to give birth, Zisskind wanted the baby to be named Mendele, in memory of his beloved grandson. Raya, on the other hand, had other names in mind, like Ehud, a strong Jewish character from the Bible. Raya decided to name the baby Ehud and Zisskind refused to acknowledge his new grandson, since his name was Ehud and not Mendele.
The story Gogol is about an Indian couple who just had a baby. In the Indian culture, the grandmother is the one who chooses the name for the newborn and the parents have no say in the matter. They do not believe in passing names from generation to generation. The name for the new baby has been sent in a letter in the mail and has not yet arrived. When the couple wants to leave the hospital they are not allowed to leave without naming their baby. They try to explain their situation to the doctor but he does not understand their problem. The doctor tells them to give the baby a temporary name until the real name arrives. The couple do as the doctor suggests but know that the real name will be given by the Grandmother. This tradition shows the deep respect young people have for their elders. In the story Gogol there is no hesitation with regard to giving the grandmother the honor of choosing a name for the newborn.
In Israeli culture, different names are popular in every generation. The name Mendele, which Grandfather Zisskind wanted to give the newborn was considered by his daughter to be an old fashioned name, a reminder of the horrible past the Jews went through. Zisskind believed that if the baby would be given that name there would be no memory, no evidence and no trace of his tragic past. The name was not accepted by Raya's generation. Raya and her husband, Yehuda wanted to give the newborn a strong name that would not carry the burden of the Holocaust and especially of the death of Mendele, Grandfather Zisskind's grandchild. They think there are different ways to remember the past, not necessarily by naming their child a certain name. In the story The Name, there is respect towards Grandfather Zisskind and his desires, but only up to a certain level. Raya loves and respects her grandfather but felt she cannot "sacrifice her son" for her grandfather's past, even though she wants to make him happy.
In both stories there is someone who intervenes and is neutral. They try to compromise and by that provide the best solution to the conflict. In Gogol, the doctor, who is not familiar with Indian tradition, is the one who intervenes and tells them to just pick any name. After he understands a little more about their tradition, he tells them to choose a temporary name and after they have decided on the real name, to change it. In The Name, the mother is torn between Grandfather Zisskind and Raya. She understood both sides. She offers an alternative name which will satisfy both desires.
In both stories a name plays a very important role in ones life. In Gogol, the name that is given is so significant and has to be so perfectly fitted that a few years can go by before the child will be given a name.
In the story The Name, Raya and Yehuda must choose a name that will symbolize something strong and alive. Grandfather Zisskind, on the other ,hand feels that by giving his grandson's name he will be remembered by a living person who can tell the story of the person he is named after.
In conclusion, both stories show how important choosing a name can be and how the older generations influence the younger generations. These stories demonstrate the importance of respecting the older generation, listening to one another, and being able to compromise.
Biography's of the authors
Aharon Megged (b. Wroclawek, Poland), came as a boy of six to Tel Aviv, where he lives today. He was a kibbutz member for 12 years, and worked in agriculture, fishing and at the docks at Haifa Port. After leaving the kibbutz he worked as a literary editor and journalist. Megged began publishing in 1938. He served as the Israeli cultural attaché in London, and was Writer in Residence at Haifa University and Oxford. He has been a member of the Academy of Hebrew Language since 1980. From 1980 to 1987, he was the president of the Israeli center of PEN. He has received the Bialik Prize, the Brenner Prize, the Agnon Prize, the Wizo Prize, in France, for Foiglman, Israel Prize (2003) and several other literary awards. In 2004, he won the Koret prize for Jewish fiction.
Megged's tone is
critical. He focuses his perceptive eye on the relationships his individuals
have, and through these, draws a picture of society at large. Megged tackles
a subject which is increasingly engaging Hebrew writers: the nostalgic
preoccupation with the Jewish identity from which the "new Jew,"
the Sabra, has sought to free himself in the State of Israel. While Megged
frequently conveys the "wonderful Jewish virtues of wit, humanity and
idealism," his work often has strong satiric qualities. Having sprung
from the generation of writers associated with the 1948 War of Independence,
Megged is in many ways a prototype. His thematic developments largely reflect
the changing face of Israel.
Jhumpa Lahiri was born 1967 in London, England, and raised in Rhode Island. She is a graduate of Barnard College, where she received a B.A. in English literature, and of Boston University, where she received an M.A. in English, M.A. in Creative Writing and M.A. in Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was translated into twenty-nine languages and became a bestseller both in the United States and abroad. In addition to the Pulitzer, it received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award, and a nomination for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Lahiri was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002. The Name sake is Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel. She lives in New York with her husband and son.
We have learnt a lot of new ideas from doing this project. We saw, from both stories, how important names are, how the older generations influence the younger generations and how important it is to respect the older generation. We have learnt how important choosing a simple name can be, and how important it is to listen to each other and reach compromises. We really admire the way the older generation is treated In the story Gogol. We think that with respect like they have you can have and keep good connections with the older generations. We think that in the story The Name, Grandfather Zisskind should have been more flexible and understanding about why Raya was so against the name he offered, but Raya should have compromised and not been so stubborn. If she had been more flexible, and had compromised, then she and her grandfather would still have had a good relationship. Instead, their relationship was ruined.
We think we did get help from the teacher although we feel that more help would have been better. We do not really feel that having some communication with a different culture in Canada made the project more interesting since we do not feel we really got to know their culture. We were able to correct our work alone, and worked well together. We would enjoy reading what our friends have written.
Aharon Megged – Jewish Virtual Library, 25 Feb 2006 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/megged.html>.
Aharon Megged, 25 Feb 2006, <http://www.tobypress.com/books/foiglman.htm>.
Jhumpa Lahiri, 25 Feb 2006, <http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/catalog/authordetail.cfm?authorID=4768>.