In the last few years, a lot of new writers from the Northeast India have made a name for themselves, within the region and beyond, because of their remarkable writing and one such writer is Janice Pariat. In fact, her debut collection of short stories, Boats on Land, had won her the 2013 Sahitya Akademi Young Writer Award. Her next book, Seahorse, was also an equally interesting read that book lovers across the country raved about upon its release. And so, it is not surprising that we have been eagerly waiting for her third book which was launched recently. In this exclusive interview, we speak to the talented writer about her new book and what readers can expect.
What inspired ‘The Nine-Chambered Heart’?
In May 2015, I was walking the streets of London in the evening with someone whom I thought I would be in a long-term relationship with. But we had unravelled and almost come to an end. And I found myself asking how did I get here? What stories do they tell about me, the ones I’ve loved and been with, the ones who’ve loved me. It was like looking at myself from the outside. This is when the idea for The Nine-Chambered Heart was born. It’s a fictional biography of a woman told through nine characters who she has loved or been loved by.
Why did you want to tell the story of one character from nine different perspectives?
The book is a piecing together of a person, her life—or rather a particular section of her life, from childhood until her early 30s—and I wanted to capture that through the outside, to turn the eye of love inside out. To play with how identify is at best a fragmentary, ever-shifting thing. To explore how we are stories other people tell themselves about us. And nine seemed a perfect number—like the planets circling the sun.
How long did it take you to write and do you have a regime that you follow when it comes to writing?
I started the book in summer 2015 and finished it in May 2017. When I’m working on a manuscript I have a strict rather unromantic ‘corporate’ timetable, one that stretches from nine to five. If I’m not working on a manuscript, it tends to be more erratic and unpredictable.
Which character in the book do you relate to the most or do you like the most?
It keeps varying, to be honest, but I am rather attached to ‘The Professor’, the schoolboy who is youthfully enamoured by the protagonist. Being a student of physics, he’s most different to her, and to the others in the book, but also terribly vulnerable.
What do you want readers to take back after reading the book?
There’s no ‘message’ I’m trying to convey through The Nine-Chambered Heart, but I suppose I hope it makes readers think about how we exist in relation to others in such slim slivers of illumination. That we can never know someone else, no matter how long we’ve been with them, entirely.
As told to Meeta Borah