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Hello and welcome to Episode 37 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Thank you for tuning in.
Today, in the #DesiCraftChat segment, we have Jai Chakrabarti who has a debut historical novel out this month titled A Play for the End of the World. In this conversation, we talked about the play that the story centers on, Tagore, WWII, how art and politics are intertwined, how the past lives on in the present, how he gets into the heads of his characters, his journey as a writer, and more.
#DESICRAFTCHAT WITH JAI CHAKRABARTI — INTRODUCTION
Jai Chakrabarti’s short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Short Stories, and has been awarded a Pushcart Prize. His story “A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness” was performed on Selected Shorts by Symphony Space. His nonfiction has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Writer’s Digest, and Literary Hub. He was an Emerging Writer Fellow with A Public Space and received his MFA from Brooklyn College. Born in Kolkata, India, he now splits his time between Brooklyn, NY and the Hudson Valley. A Play for the End of the World is his first novel. In addition to being a writer, he’s also a technologist and has written about his journey for Fast Company.
A Play for the End of the World is set in the early 1970s New York and rural India. It’s the story of a turbulent, unlikely romance, a harrowing account of the lasting horrors of the Second World War, and an examination of one man’s search for forgiveness and acceptance. In New York City, 1972. Jaryk Smith, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Lucy Gardner, a southerner, newly arrived in the city, are in the first bloom of love when they receive word that Jaryk’s oldest friend has died under mysterious circumstances in a rural village in eastern India. Traveling there alone to collect his friend’s ashes, Jaryk soon finds himself enmeshed in the chaos of local politics and the efforts to stage a play in protest against the government. And that’s the same play that he performed as a child in Warsaw as an act of resistance against the Nazis. So, torn between the survivor’s guilt that he’s carried for decades and his feelings for Lucy (who, unbeknownst to him, is pregnant with his child), Jaryk must decide how to honor the past and the present, and how to accept a happiness that he’s not sure he deserves.
On a personal note, this novel has become one of my favorite works of fiction this year. It has grace and heart and it’s about resilience against and redemption from both personal and political histories. It made me look at Tagore’s famous play, The Post Office, in a whole new way.
Jai and I did a live, virtual event for his book launch at City Lights Bookstore less than 24 hours before this interview. You can watch that here. Our conversation next is partly a continuation from that earlier one but also has deeper craft and cultural questions that we couldn’t get into with the larger audience there.
And now, here’s Jai.
#DESICRAFTCHAT WITH JAI CHAKRABARTI
You’ve been listening to episode 37 of Desi Books—news and views about desi literature from the world over. I’m your host, Jenny Bhatt. Today’s #DesiCraftChat was with Jai Chakrabarti discussing his debut novel titled A Play for the End of the World.
Episode 38 will be up shortly. Follow on Twitter @desibooks, Instagram @desi.books, Facebook @desibooksfb. Tag the accounts if you have requests or suggestions. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please go to the website if you’d like to sign up for the free, weekly newsletter. That’s desibooks.co.
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