Thirty-five years ago, American author Harold Jaffe traveled throughout India. The place that made the strongest impression on him was the holy Hindu city of Varanasi (also known as Benares or Kashi). In 2015, he returned to Varanasi for six months and wrote Sacred Outcast: Dispatches from India, which, unexpectedly, melded his current stay with his India travels over three decades ago. The “dispatches" combine close description with narrative, dialogue, fantasy, and an ongoing interrogation of the caste system. In times when official cruelty dominates, Jaffe uncovers the sacred beauty of an oppressed, wounded people, chronicling their maladies and long suffering.
HAROLD JAFFE is the author of numerous volumes of fiction, novels, docufiction, and essays. His books have been translated into 15 languages and he has received many accolades, among them two NEA grants, two Fulbright fellowships, and three Pushcart Prizes. Jaffe teaches literature at San Diego State University and is editor-in-chief of Fiction International.
"When the American writer returns to the holy Hindu city of Varanasi he travels not only through space but time. Chronicling injustices and maladies along the way, he finds also the sacred beauty of the wounded. Jaffe locates the sacred among 'untouchables with mobiles,' among the survivors in a leper colony, in 'a dark-skinned, low-caste little girl, maybe five years old, who stands barefoot on the stone ghat facing the Ganges playing notes on a wooden flute.' This is a beautiful book." —ILYA KAMINSKY
"Harold Jaffe is a master storyteller, weaving personal experiences and impressions with a deep knowledge of place and history. His language is beautiful and seductive. Sacred Outcast reveals and explores Varanasi on many levels and opens the reader to a spacious understanding." —CATHERINE JANSEN
"Harold Jaffe has been by turns our coffee and our Courvoisier—our wake-up call and delectation. In the age of Trump, he's our water, Sacred Outcast the unfiltered stuff from deep beneath our blasted surface." —LAWRENCE-MIN BUI DAVIS