Team Kitaab is in conversation with author, traveller, and polyglot, Kiran Bhat whose story is soon going to be published in TBASS (Kitaab,2021).
Kiran Bhat is an Indian-American polyglot, traveller, and author. He is primarily known as the author of the English-language story cycle, we of the forsaken world… (Iguana Books, 2020), but has published four books in four other languages, and has had his writing published at The Kenyon Review, The Brooklyn Rail, 3:AM Magazine, The Rumpus, be:longing, SOFTBLOW, The Eco Theo Review, The Bengaluru Review, The Chakkar, and several other places.
He has been to 140 countries, lived in 25 places across the globe, and speaks twelve languages. He currently lives in Johannesburg.
His story April 15th, 2021, Pyongyang North Korea: Day of the Sun is soon going to be published in TBASS 2021 (Kitaab, 2021)
Team Kitaab: Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
Kiran Bhat: I am interested in what it means to create globalist literature. That is literature that can only be conceived from the collective consciousness of the 7 billion people of this earth. I would also like this literature to be bottom top, carved from all of the nodes of this planet speaking to itself. So I write works of fiction to start to imagine how the world as its own space of literature and art would like, in the hopes that future generations who identify not with nationalities, but as citizens of our planet, will someday have literature to call theirs.
Team Kitaab: Share a bit about your writing journey so far. How did you start? Any roadblocks? Who were your strongest supporters? Any tips to share with aspiring writers who are just beginning their journey or are about to begin it?
Kiran Bhat: I started writing when I was 17 (I am 31 now). I had some roadblocks in my life due to issues related to my sexuality, so I started to write poetry. People in my high school in the USA said that it was quite good and encouraged me to write. I went to NYU and started taking up short story writing, which I would workshop with my professors.
I am proud to say that while some of them were still quite fresh, they got a lot of personalized attention from big literary journals like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta. They never accepted my work, but I would get handwritten praise on the back of the rejections, asking me to never give up.
I obviously never did.
Team Kitaab: Tell us about your most recent book or writing/editing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
Kiran Bhat: Well, I’m working on a book called Girar. It takes place in 365 places in the world but is told through a website, between 2020 and 2029. The story itself deals with a Mother, Father, and Son. These are archetypes, not real people, or characters, set in one place or cultural context. The mother and father are trying to deal with the fact that their son is gay and trying to make a space for them in their lives despite a decade of estrangement.
A concrete example. If a story is told in Maseru on January 23 2023 at 8:30 pm, imagining a moment in Mother’s trip to her sister’s house or dinner with a group of friends, but in the racial, cultural, and national background of Lesotho, it is emailed to the subscribers who chose to follow it at that exact time, no matter whether they are in New South Wales or in Buenos Aires. The next story might be February 2nd, 2024, imagining a moment of Father’s life in the hospital, but in another racial or cultural context, such as being a Malayali immigrant in Doha, or a gaucho from southern Brazil, or a Himba descendent in rural Namibia.
The stories all weave together to ultimately tell a collective tale, but by setting all of the sections of the novel in the major cultures of the world, and in real-time, I want Girar to be a live journal of our 21st-century history taking place, told through all of Planet Earth at once, and in a very particular, personal and powerful story.
Team Kitaab: Describe your writing aesthetic.
Kiran Bhat: A sort of globalist metamorphic fiction which tries to alter the way we relate to the topography of our planet. A style of interconnectivity, told through the mind of not one protagonist, but through the global multitude, speaking at once, and yet somehow despite the diversity, speaking as one.
Team Kitaab: What/ Who is your writing inspiration?
Kiran Bhat: The typical big epics that previously divined literature, from War and Peace to Middlemarch, from the Mahabharata to the Iliad, obviously inspire me. At the same time, I also read a lot of short stories, and find myself more interested in the form these days, in our more attention-starved times. I constantly go back to Manto or Chekhov, Lispector or Munro, to see how they made such a short frame of writing pack so much. I also read and review a lot of contemporary poetry.
So there’s a lot that inspires me; if anything, probably too much!
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Kiran Bhat: I have too much to say to have writer’s block. I spend every day writing and tend to get a lot done. I think writer’s block is easy to avoid if you focus on writing as a means to an end.
Team Kitaab: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Kiran Bhat: A bit of both. I do have a sense of where my books are going, and I do plot all of the arcs I want them to take. At the same time, you have to let the characters and their circumstances speak for themselves. Plotting is important for your own mental peace, but you have to respect your characters for what they want to say.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
Kiran Bhat: Probably my multilingual writing. I write also in Kannada, Spanish, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Turkish, to various levels of success. I know that I know none of these languages well so I do it in the spirit of practice. But that is also what makes it hard! To know that you are never going to create true poetry in the languages, but yet you persist because you want to be a master at your art.
Team Kitaab: What’s your idea of bliss?
Kiran Bhat: To be at complete and utter peace within myself. To feel no anguish. To feel no hurt.
Team Kitaab: What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Kiran Bhat: Myself. I’m full of self-loathing, and negative energy. I repeat the ugly words people have said to me, and anger myself (sadly, often, for no reason).
Team Kitaab: What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Kiran Bhat: It depends. I am a book reviewer, so I’d probably take a lot of the books that I think need to be practically considered. If it’s for pleasure, I’d probably pick something long and with a lot to teach me. The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, the Yoga Vasistha would really fill me up, but so would The Sound and The Fury, Middlemarch, the Brothers Karamazov. or some collected stories of Manto, Munro, Hemingway, etc.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Kiran Bhat: Probably my computer. It literally has everything I need, from books to games, to pictures, to my own writings.
Team Kitaab: Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Kiran Bhat: To see the whole world at once, from all of its angles, from any of its topographies, and to be one with my planet, and its spirit, and its harmony.