What is life like for someone who writes but cannot claim to be a writer? Someone who destroys his family by the words he cannot get into print?
In his new novel If I Could Tell You, Soumya Bhattacharya, author and Resident Editor Hindustan Times Mumbai, explores such a life, and through it what it takes to be a writer and what it means to fail.
“The narrator fails spectacularly at being a writer, a husband, and a father, and the puzzle for me to solve was what a person in his situation would do,” said Bhattacharya, who read passages from the novel to a gathering at Olive Bar and Kitchen, Bandra on Tuesday.
Published by Tranquebar Press and available in city bookstores from Monday, the novel is Bhattacharya’s third book and first work of fiction. His first critically acclaimed book, You Must Like Cricket?, was published in 2006. Its sequel All That You Can’t Leave Behind hit the shelves on Monday, along with If I Could Tell You.
The novel is written in the form of letters from the writer, the narrator, to his daughter. Bhattacharya said he chose to tell the story this way because it was flexible and heightened the intimacy between the writer and reader.
When asked whether he, too, wrote letters to his daughter, Bhattacharya, whose weekly column on parenting, Dad’s The Word, appears in Hindustan Times on Sundays, said, “No, that’s why I write the column. That’s memoir, this book is fiction.”
Indeed, although many superficial aspects of the writer’s life are similar to Bhattacharya’s, including the name of his daughter, Oishi, he described the novel as “anti-autobiographical.”
“The narrator has read a lot, has a consuming desire to become a writer, who wants to be a good father and husband, and is struggling to find a voice of his own, but is failing,” he said.