Shruti Swamy’s debut book of short stories dazzled audiences, including Kiese Laymon, who called A House Is a Body “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now Swamy joins The Center for Fiction to celebrate the launch of her debut novel, The Archer. In the coming-of-age story, Swamy tells the story of Vidya, who grows up in 1960s and 1970s Bombay, among the backdrop of a carefully delineated society. In her childhood, she discovers Kathak, a dance form requiring intense focus and discipline, and explores the transformative power of art. Swamy discussed her work with author Mesha Maren (Sugar Run).
By Shruti Swamy
Published by Algonquin Books
Kiese Laymon called Shruti Swamy’s debut book of stories, A House Is a Body, “one of the greatest short story collections of the 2020s.” Now, Swamy brings us an accomplished and immersive coming-of-age novel set in the Bombay of the 1960s and 1970s.
As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family, watch over her younger brother, and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Kathak quickly becomes the organizing principle of Vidya’s life, even as she leaves home for college, falls in love with her best friend, and battles demands on her time, her future, and her body. Can Vidya give herself over to her art and also be a wife in Bombay’s carefully delineated society? Can she shed the legacy of her own imperfect, unknowable mother? Must she, herself, also become a mother?
Intensely lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as rhythmically mesmerizing as Kathak itself, The Archer is about the transformative power of art and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.
Shruti Swamy is the author of the story collection, A House Is a Body, which was a finalist for the Pen/Robert Bingham Prize, the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction, and longlisted for the Story Prize. Her work has been published by the Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and anthologized in the O. Henry Prize Stories. Her debut novel, The Archer, was published by Algonquin Books in September 2021. She lives in San Francisco.
Photo Credit: Abe Bingham
Mesha Maren is the author of Sugar Run and the upcoming Perpetual West (January 2022). Her work has appeared in the Oxford American, the Guardian, Tin House, the Southern Review, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, an Elizabeth George Foundation grant and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She is an assistant professor at Duke University and also serves as a NEA Writing Fellow at the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
Photo Credit: Natalia Weedy