Today’s conversation with novelist and story writer Jai Chakrabarti is unusually wide-ranging, touching on everything from classical Indian aesthetics to Jewish ritual, from poetry to cognitive science, from Tagore’s plays to Buber’s philosophy, from sublimating the self to writing the other. Chakrabarti’s new story collection, A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness, engages with complex questions of class, gender, race, religion, and nationality, particularly in relation to families and family making, and the tensions between our individual dreams and the countervailing realities of the people we share lives with and among. We discuss questions of story shape, characterization, point of view, and the role of the reader in order to look deeply at how to tell such stories in ways that feel nuanced, lived, and embodied.
For the bonus audio archive Jai reads two poems by the Polish poet and translator (and biographer of Bruno Schulz) Jerzy Ficowski. The epigraph to Jai’s novel comes from one of them, and the second poem is dedicated to the memory of Janusz Korczak (who we discuss quite a bit in the main discussion). To learn how to subscribe to the bonus audio and about the many other potential benefits and rewards from joining the Between the Covers community as a listener-supporter, head over the the show’s Patreon page.
Finally, here is the Bookshop for today’s conversation.