This author's new book is about love and all its facets
AUTHOR Janice Pariat was taking a walk one cold London evening in 2015 with someone she thought she would be in a long-term relationship with, when she realised the relationship had unravelled and things were hurtling to an end.
"I felt I was standing at a distance and observing myself. I thought 'How did this happen?'" That's when she decided to write The Nine-Chambered Heart (HarperCollins; `399), a biographical collection of nine relationships the protagonist has been in, with a difference. "I thought about everyone I've loved, and realised we all exist to each other as stories and narratives," she says.
Artfully, and in a typical raw Haruki Murakami-inspired style, Pariat has placed the characters around the protagonist - much like the solar system and the sun (a concept that inspired the title) - and flowed the narrative through glimpses of her from other people's points of view.
"I also wanted to explore the idea that no matter how much you love each other, we never get to know people completely. They still have ability to surprise us," she explains.
Unlike her previous books, and her upcoming one about a Victorian woman botanist, this one required more internal research rather than a historical or geographical study. "It made me think about relationships I've had and seen," she says.
The first chapter, which starts off with the protagonist's teacher's perspective, shapes up the back story, laying down the foundation for her behaviour in the remaining chapters. "The book is about the many forms of desire and the chapters say more than just talk about the idea of love," Pariat says.
And if one had any doubt if the novel is as relatable as it feels, then she tells us she put in an additional chapter dedicated to one lover in the last minute because "the fact that there was no reappearance of any character bothered me because it's not very realistic. Relationships are like ghosts. They linger. It maybe takes much longer for them to be written out of the narrative. People come back and there's hope and uncertainty," she says.
Speaking about the ghostly foundation of the novel - no characters or places are named in the book - Pariat says, "I was tired of being a writer from the Northeast. But, what can you possibly label a writer who doesn't use geography? Also, there are stories that slide across the border - like The Arabian Nights or mythology. It was risky, but in a way it allows the book to be read in a different way."
The narrative also talks about the no-labels love life people are used to today. "In the end, she learns that she has learnt to let things go. It's something that I've had to learn over the years. And an important one because we're at that 'marriageable age' where the pressure is on! So, how do you be okay with yourself? It's a conversation I've had with a lot of my closest, usually women, friends," Pariat concludes.