A conversation with National Jewish Book Award winner Jai Chakrabarti

by | Dec 15, 2022 | What’s Happening

Tuesday, January 17, 12 pm, online, free

In August 1942, Polish-Jewish doctor and educator Janusz Korczak walked with the children of the Warsaw Ghetto to the Umschlagplatz, the train platform for deportations to the camps. While members of the Polish Resistance offered to rescue Korczak, he insisted on staying to care for his children. Their train ride ended at Treblinka.

Just weeks before, Korczak led his children in a production of the play The Post Office, published in Bengali as Dak Ghar in 1912 by Rabindranath Tagore. His goal was to help the children have hope during the dark times they were experiencing.

Author Jai Chakrabarti’s novel, A Play for the End of the World, opens with an imagining of this play in the ghetto with the book’s protagonist, Jaryk, about to go onstage as the lead actor. As the novel continues, the reader meets Jaryk in the 1970s visiting a rural village in Eastern India, where government protestors are performing the same play he acted in as a child.

Torn between the survivor’s guilt he has carried for decades and his feelings for the woman he loves, Jaryk must decide how to honor both the past and the present and how to accept a happiness he is not sure he deserves.

This unforgettable story is the winner of the National Jewish Book Award’s Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction. Author of the forthcoming story collection, A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness, Chakrabarti’s short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

Chakrabarti is the second author to be featured in the Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival’s Arts + Ideas Book of the Month series, a collection of conversations with authors surrounding books with intriguing topics, characters, and stories.

The festival, which is a program of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC, is hosting Chakrabarti in partnership with UJFT’s Holocaust Commission. The online event is free, but reservations are required to receive the Zoom link. Register at JewishVA.org/BookFest.

For more information, contact Hunter Thomas, director of Arts + Ideas, at HThomas@UJFT.org.

The Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival is held in coordination with the Jewish Book Council, the longest-running organization devoted exclusively to the support and celebration of Jewish literature.

Hunter Thomas