These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light by Dharini Bhaskar talks about the modern woman. Torn between (un)sanctioned memory, uncommon love, and the claims of familial history. The book has been longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature. We at thenotoriousreader spoke to her about her book and her nomination in this interview.
Born in Bombay, Dharini Bhaskar has at various points also called Britain, Greece, and Delhi home. Dharini was the former editorial director of Simon and Schuster India and was one of five young Indian writers selected for Caravan’s Writers of India Festival, Paris. She has been published in an anthology, Day’s End Stories, and in Hindu Blink and Arre, among other publications. When she isn’t writing, Dharini backpacks, reads, and finds immense joy in being brought up by her son.
What inspires you to pick up your pen and write?
This complex, layered, dazzling thing called life. Trees. Sunlight. The call of the sea.
Can you please give us some more information about your book?
It asks the question: what of our lives do we choose as women, and how much is chosen for us?
Can you please tell us more about the main characters of the book?
I like believing that the main character is language—words—what they say, what they fail to convey, how they protect us, how they let us down.
Why did you choose to write about this particular topic?
For me, writing of women is a political act, a statement that their everyday struggles are what shape history.
Why did you choose this particular genre? Will you be trying your hand at any other genre?
I’m not someone who aligns herself with genres. I write because it is what consumes me. The shape and form of what I write is dictated by the emotions I try making sense of.
When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?
I wish I could answer that question with clarity. But I’ve only just managed to move past the world I built in _These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light._ I’m still making my way into a new one.
If not a writer, what would have been the career of your choice?
I don’t know. I could spend a lifetime watching the world go by. Maybe that.
Can you tell us about your favorite author/ authors?
Such a long list. Much of it keeps shifting as I become a new person. But some writers who have endured as anchors include Virginia Woolf, Anne Carson, Anais Nin, Anne Enright, Jack Gilbert, Stephen Dunn, Dorianne Laux.
What do you like to do when you are not busy writing?
I like being unschooled by my son. He teaches me how to savor words (among other things). I love word-hunting, story-building, eavesdropping. And yes, reading. In a former life, I used to backpack.
How do you feel about your book making it to the longlist of The JCB Prize for literature?
To me, it still feels surreal. I watch through frosted glass with astonishment, joy, gratitude, and yes, disbelief.
What are your views about the other books that have been longlisted alongside your book?
They’re incredible books, each of them. Their commitment to storytelling and to making sense of this complex world is more than a little reassuring. Literature still lives.
Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?
Words of wisdom? I have none. I am learning how to live every day by watching my two-year-old. Maybe that’s the only advice I have: seek the company of animals and children.
You can read more about her book These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light, here.