By: Dov Pfeiffer  | 

Award-Winning Author Jai Chakrabarti Speaks to Dozens of Students about ‘A Play for the End of the World’

Jai Chakrabarti, an award-winning Indian-American author, addressed over seventy students and professors about his award-winning book, “A Play for the End of the World,” which relates a fictional account of a Warsaw Ghetto survivor and his later life, on Nov. 7.

The event, originally intended as a virtual session for a graduate class, was held at the Sky Cafe in Belfer Hall on Wilf Campus and was attended by undergraduate and Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies students, as well as 10 professors from YU’s English Department. Attendees were served a kosher Indian meal prepared by YU’s cafeteria.

“A Play for the End of the World” won the 2021 National Jewish Book Award winner for Debut Fiction, and is a fictional account of a member of Janusz Korczak’s orphanage, who was a Polish Jewish doctor and educator and was murdered with the youths in his care in Treblinka during the Holocaust. 

Unlike in reality, where no members of the orphanage survived, “A Play for the End of the World” portrays a fictionalized account of the life of an imagined survivor of that orphanage, and starts off with a true-to-life performance of Bengali playwright Rabindranath Tagore‘s “Dak Ghar,” or “The Post Office,” which Korczak ran in his orphanage shortly before the orphans were deported to Treblinka in August 1942.

Chakrabarti discussed various facets of his book, including its historical background, his writing style, his life story and his connection to the book’s story.

Born in Kolkata, India to parents who were refugees from Bangladesh, Chakrabarti went to a school that was in the Guinness book of world records for being the most populous school in the world.  At that school, he performed in a production of Tagore’s “Dak Ghar”. Many years later, when he was living in Jerusalem, he discovered the story of Korczak’s production of that play at a visit to Yad Vashem, and described being blown away by the story, eventually inspiring him to write “A Play for the End of the World.”

“Because if I take you back again to that populous school in India,” Chakrabarti told the audience, explaining his interest in Korczak’s production, “one of the plays that I was performing … was, in fact, ‘The Post Office.’ And it was ‘The Post Office’ that Janusz Korczak chose to stage in 1942, weeks before he and all his children were rounded up to Treblinka. And learning that — I was absolutely transfixed.”

He also read excerpts from the book, elaborating on their background, styles and influences and took questions from the audience. 

The event was co-sponsored by the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs, the Emil A. and Jennie Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Judaic Studies at Yeshiva University, the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the Yeshiva College Department of English and the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program.

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Photo Caption: Over 70 people attended the event.

Photo Credit: The Commentator