As part of the Fall 2014 Stony Brook Southampton Writers Speak series, author Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya will be reading from a work-in-progress, tentatively titled Through Darkness, on Wednesday, November 5.
The Writers Speak Wednesday series began in the fall of 2007 and has succeeded in bringing distinguished authors, poets, artists, publishers and educators to Southampton, among them such notables as James Salter, Helen Simonson, David Rakoff, Jay McInerny, Carl Safina, Alexandra Styron and Masha Gessen.
Because the series is sponsored by the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literature, one of its goals is to give MFA students the opportunity to experience a diverse array of perspectives on literature and writing. Writers Speak events are open to the public and the attendance of both residents and students often makes for a spirited Q&A with the author following the readings.
The readings, talks and interviews take place on the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University, where the MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program is based. They are held on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Radio Lounge of Chancellors Hall.
Roy-Bhattacharya’s novel, Through Darkness, takes place in Baghdad and chronicles the campaign of shock and awe waged by American forces during the early morning hours of March 19, 2003.
“The bombing took place between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and I wanted the length of the book to mimic that time frame,”Roy-Bhattacharya explains. “Through Darkness is done in a ‘single take’—told in the present tense going through those four hours. The entire text is in one block. The reader is in the moment from start to finish. I don’t expect anyone to actually read the entire book in one sitting, but even with breaks in the reading it follows the starts and stops of a bombing campaign.
“As a writer, I feel obligated to confront—especially—a Western audience with the realities of the policies that are instituted in their names. To date there are fewer than five books published in America from the ‘other’ point of view.”
Roy-Bhattacharya was born in India, and has studied philosophy and international relations at both Presidency College in Calcutta and at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. At Bard College he was a professor of writing, and he was a writer-in-residence at the University of Albany in 2007. He is the author of three previously published novels: The Gabriel Club, The Storyteller of Marrakesh and The Watch. His forthcoming novel, Light Angel, is set for publication in the winter of 2015.
The author places his books into two categories: war and peace. The Watch takes the Greek drama Antigone and repositions it as a conflict between a local girl seeking to bury her dead brother—suspected of being an insurgent—and American soldiers defending a camp in present-day Afghanistan. The Storyteller of Marrakesh and Light Angel (which takes place in Iran) are two of the novels which fall into the “peace” category.
Through Darkness was influenced in part by The End: Hamburg, 1943, by Hans Erich Nossack, a novel about the Allied bombing of Hamburg, Germany, during World War II.
“He wrote it almost immediately after the bombing,” Roy-Bhattacharya said. “It’s a very somber book, but I read and thought that this is exactly what needs to be done in terms of addressing the whole issue of the bombing in the Middle East—which did save American lives, but as for how we, in the West, think of it emotionally, it doesn’t really have an impact, not in terms of how it kills the people on the other side who are not ‘us.’”
Stony Brook Southampton Writers Speak series features author Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya on Wednesday, November 5, at 7 p.m. in the Radio Lounge (second floor) of Chancellors Hall, Stony Brook Southampton Campus, 239 Montauk Highway, Southampton. Free. For more info, visit stonybrook.edu/southampton.