“I’ve always written, all my life, so it was a natural thing to pursue,” tells us Buku Sarkar of her inevitable journey towards writing her debut book, Not Quite a Disaster after All. Her written work has previously appeared in various magazines and journals including NYRB, n+1, RaleighReview, Threepenny Review, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Mint Lounge. She has also been the recipient of the Andrew Nelson Lytle Award for best short story in 2021. Even her work as a photographer is well known, with her imagery having been exhibited at ICP in New York, Art Basel, Miami, and The Photographers' Gallery, London.
“It’s been a work of over ten years now. Starting back in 2010, although I didn’t write consistently,” reminisces Buku of the inception and creation of her debut book. Deeply rooted in the author’s own lived experiences, as she currently lives in Kolkata and New York, with her central character Anjali, shown in the book from her childhood in Calcutta to her coming of age in New York City. “The core of the story was memory. Then the central character got stuck in my head and the other stories emerged gradually,” adds the author.
Alongside Anjali, we’re also acquainted with her childhood friend Anita, whose life choices prove to be the opposite to those of Anjali’s, yet she struggles with the quieter life of marriage and motherhood she has chosen. “It was my first editor at HarperCollins, who subsequently retired, who saw how all the stories were so entwined. I hadn’t noticed myself, or may be I did but not consciously,” explains the author of the interconnected nature of the vignettes and characters that propel the narrative of the book.
The book provides a powerful and nuanced exploration of two rather different women, equally determined to be independent and recognised for their unique individuality and self-hood. “Aleksander Hemon, Alice Munroe, Ernaux to be most specific,” lists the author as her influences behind the making of Not Quite a Disaster after All. For the reader, the author hopes they take away, “a tear, a smile sometimes, here and there,” from her alluring new novel.
Words Nidhi Verma