Sabarna Roy is a known name in the literary world for his storytelling through poetry, for bringing out raw emotions, for blend of novellas with poems, for portraying complexity of human nature in simple language.
He is the author of literary fictions like Pentacles, Frosted Glass, Abyss, Winter Poems, Random Subterranean Mosaic and his latest Etchings of the Quarter of 2020. We chatted about his books and other stuff. Do read the complete interview to know all about the author Sabarna Roy.
Q – If you had to follow any type of animal in order to reveal some truth about yourself, what would you choose?
Roy – It has to be Tiger.
Q – Did you have a favorite library or bookstore as a child?
Roy – The Central Library of my school Sacred Heart Convent School, Ludhiana used to be my most favourite library in my childhood.
Q – Pentacles is an intriguing title for a poetry book. What are you introducing to the reader with this title, and how does its meaning fit for one long story and four short poems?
Roy – Pentacles bridges the gap between the mundane and arcane writings of today and provides an interesting, yet intellectually stimulating, treat for the discerning reader.
New Life is a long story written from the perspective of a successful adult whose mother had deserted the family for another man. The teenage angst and the scars it has left behind on the psyche of the protagonist are subtly reflected in the character. The different elements and characters of the story are beautifully interwoven to produce an intense and compelling story of an adult haunted by the trauma of being deserted by his mother. The work is interspersed with thought-provoking views on issues like love and socio-economic conditions in India.
The traditional rhyme and metre dominated poems are on love, loss and longing. Unshackled by the bonds of rhyme and metre, the free verses evoke the stark reality of urban life, hitting you straight in the guts. The use of everyday urban imagery adds to the appeal of the compositions. The concrete prison of urban life and the unfulfilled desire to escape to a simple life is aptly brought out in The Tower. The other poems of the collection are more biographical in nature with the protagonist being the member of the fairer sex. The free verses sketch out their life story with its attendant pathos, poignancy and logic. The best part of all the compositions is that the reader will definitely identify with the poet and will, in one form or other, have similar stories to narrate.
Q – Tell us something about Frosted Glass?
Roy – The stories, set in Calcutta, bring to the fore the darkness lurking in the human psyche and bare the baser instincts. The stories, compactly written and marked by insightful dialogues that raise contemporary issues like man-woman relationships and its strains, morals and ethics, environmental degradation, class inequality, rapid and mass-scale unmindful urbanization, are devoid of sentimentalisation. The result is they remain focused and move around the central character who is named Rahul in all the stories. We encounter the events that shape, mar, guide Rahul’s life and also the lives of those around him, making us question the very essence of existence. Rahul symbolizes modern man; he is not just one character, but all of us rolled into one. The story cycle stands out for two reasons – its brilliant narrative and the dispassionate style with which betrayal in personal relationships and resultant loneliness has been handled.
The poems weave a maze of dreams, images, reflections and stories. They are written in a reflective and many a time in a narrative tenor within a poetic idiom. The poems are inseparable in a hidden way and are magically sequenced like various kinds of flowers in a garland or chapters of differing shades in a novel. Calcutta features in some of the poems like the looming backdrop of Gotham City in a Batman movie.
Q – Frosted Glass and Winter Poems both set in Calcutta made me nostalgic as this is the city I grew up in. Please tell the readers about your association with the city.
Roy – Since the summer of 1982 after having passed my CBSE examination, I have been in Calcutta/Kolkata till this date. The melancholy of Calcutta attaches me deeply to this city. I know every nook and corner of Calcutta/Kolkata because I have explored this city on foot, on bicycle and sitting inside a sedan. The monsoons and the winters of Calcutta/Kolkata haunt me deeply.
Q – Tell us about your newly released book Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020?
Roy – Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 comprises a novella and a poem cycle.
The novella, in the background is a sweetly evolving dialogue between a step-father and a step-daughter, and in the foreground it is a dissection of ideas pivoted around dualism of human life by discussing literary characters like, Lolita, Humbert Humbert, Anna Karenina, and Nikhilesh; thought-leaders like Hegel, Marx, and Heisenberg; political phenomena like, the Bolshevik Revolution; schizophrenia, love as an idea, and the secret love story of T S Eliot; and ecological phenomena like, marine conservation, and all of this is done in a unique way, almost as if we are engaged in a conversation with the author, to make us realize the plurality of life and accepting it to find peace and harmony in life.
The poem cycle is an anthology of 20 sharp edged poems that excite and thrill you as you are encapsulated in the whirlwind of the confrontations between the poet and his alter-ego.
Q – What has the process of releasing and promoting a book been like during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Roy – Etchings of the First Quarter of 2020 was published on June 26, 2020 amidst the pandemic. Since the printers were not working in Mumbai at that point in time, the book was published on Amazon Kindle. However, with the help of intelligent planning of pre-publication and post-publication of reviews, the book caught steam on Amazon Kindle. As the situation is improving, the book will be published in hard-bound copies in the near future.
Q – You have written both metered poems and free verse. How do you decide which style to adopt for your poem?
Roy – In whatever format I may be writing, I am essentially narrating stories. It is the story that decides the rhythm of a verse.
Q – How is the process of writing a novella and poems similar? What do you think young readers enjoy about each type of storytelling?
Roy – There are many structural differences between poems and prose in general. In poems, the readers must relate to images whereas in prose, the readers must relate to a plot and events and their sequence. I think young readers would prefer to enjoy anything that tells them a good story.
Q – How do you find inspiration during times of challenge and hardship?
Roy – Challenges and hardships are threats. But threats come with new opportunities.
Q – What books or authors have you enjoyed lately?
Roy – There are many, many authors that I read. However, I will name a few: Anton Chekov, Albert Camus, Eugene Ionesco, Osip Mandelstam, Orhan Pamuk, Milan Kundera, Haruki Murakami, J M Coetzee, Rabindranath Tagore, R K Narayan, Ruskin Bond and Upamanyu Chatterjee.
Q – Sir, you have written novellas, poems, plays, non-fiction and even a technical book. When can we expect a full-fledged novel from you?
Roy – May be it will take some more time.