A new epic fantasy
August 06th, 2021
Renée Sarojini Saklikar has published an epic fantasy told in verse: Bramah and the Beggar Boy (Nightwood $26.95). Ten years in the making, the 368-page book spans continents and centuries and it is the first installment of a multi-part series called THOT J BAP, which stands for The Heart of the Journey Bears All Patterns.
The two main characters, a locksmith named Bramah and an orphan beggar boy time-travel as they assist survivors of climate change. The brave young Bramah has a supportive relationship with her grandmother as well as a group Saklikar dubs the “Four Aunties of the Wishing Well” who can foretell the future and teach survival skills such as saving seeds and making soap and glass.
“I’ve always been intrigued by long form writing,” says Saklikar. “Epics, sagas, cycles of stories, and long poems just seem to beckon me into a creative space.”
The fantastical also has long held appeal for Saklikar. “As a child, I loved fantasy fiction, especially stories featuring time travel and magic.”
Bramah and the Beggar Boy has three major themes: accelerated climate change, the battle between good and evil, and female-centred mythology. Other themes that will be woven into THOT J BAP books include: family heritage; East versus West & colonialism; language, documents and fragments; survival skills and the power of making as seen in crafts such as seed saving and soap making; and racial and gender identity.
When Renée Saklikar was aged 23, her aunt and uncle were murdered aboard Air India Flight 182. Among the many viewpoints encased in her debut collection, children of air India (Nightwood, 2013), she examines why most Canadians still feel more strongly about the 9/11 terrorism attacks that killed New Yorkers rather than the Air India disaster, on June 23, 1985, that killed 329 people, mostly Canadians, making it Canada’s worst mass murder. Saklikar’s elegiac sequences explore private loss and public trauma, blending fiction and poetry, after a 20-year investigation culminated in a high-profile trial that ended with the accused being acquitted, adding to the pain. The title of her debut collection is uncapitalized and presented as children of air india: un/authorized exhibita and interjections. It won the Canadian Authors Award for best book of Canadian poetry to be published in English and was a finalist for the B.C. Book Prize’s Dorothy Livesay award for poetry.
Saklikar was the first Poet Laureate of Surrey (2015 – 2018) and she became involved in the administrative hierarchy of the Writers Union. She also co-wrote an opera on the Air India tragedy as a Canada-Ireland collaboration. In 2015, she co-edited a new anthology with Wayde Compton, The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press) that includes poetry performed during Lunch Poems at SFU, a poetry reading series that she helped to establish. In 2019, she co-authored with Dr. Mark Winston, the poetry and essay collection Listening to the Bees, winner of the 2019 Gold Medal Independent Publishers Book Award.