"Jhumpa Lahiri was honored at the Brooklyn Book Festival this week, receiving the annual “BoBi” Award which is given to a writer whose body of work exemplifies the spirit of the borough. At the festival, Lahiri — who has lived in Brooklyn for 11 years — sat on a panel about the award and read from her coming novel.
Festivalgoers lined the pews in the nave of the Gothic Revival St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. Lahiri started by reading an excerpt from her new work while seated in front of the stained-glass, arched window. Her voice was subdued and steady, filling the vaulted interior as solemnly as a priest’s.
The excerpt she read was set against the backdrop of the Naxalbari movement in Calcutta, in which students and protesters adopted a Maoist ideology and attempted a revolution. During the Q&A, Lahiri explained that she first heard about this historical moment while having a conversation with her father in Provincetown. Ever since, she has been carrying this story in her head for the past 14 years.
To research the historical context of the time, Lahiri talked to some people who were involved, and who witnessed the events in Calcutta. “It’s not really dealing directly with that moment in history,” she told Speakeasy, “but I felt the most valuable research came from having conversations with certain people.”
She has completed a draft of the novel and said she expects it will take another year or two before it is out in the world."
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