The polished, elegant surfaces of Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of nine short stories, An Interpreter of Maladies (Houghton Mifflin, $12, 198 pp.) belie the howling emptiness at their depths. In her carefully observed, minimalist tales, Indian immigrants discover the nightmarish price of the American dream of lots of stuff. Strangers in a strange land, imperfectly understanding, imperfectly understood, missing their community-oriented society, they wrestle with unfamiliar New World problems–loneliness, depression, and isolation which destabilize the marriages that, in at least five stories, agonizingly disintegrate. In a savage story, “A Temporary Matter,” a suffering couple, Shoba and Shukumar, tell each other erstwhile secrets, and we watch them steadily, viciously destroy each other as they face the death of their love and marriage. “Mr. Pirzada” and “Mrs. Sen” present Indian faculty couples, alienated and adrift in a foreign world. More restfully, the final story, “The Third and Final Continent,” details the not uncommon odyssey of the restless Indian (like Lahiri’s and my own and, it’s rumored, Rushdie’s) from India through England to America; and the advent of love within the confines of an arranged marriage.