The Janus - Faced Amitav Ghosh : the Earlier Novels and The Ibis Trilogy
Amitav Ghosh , in spite of his fixed home is an itinerant. By nature he is a traveller, in his mind he is a voyager and he divides his time between Kolkata, Goa and Brooklyn. Being one of India's best-known writers , he had to write for many publications. including the Hindu, The New Yorker and Granta, and he has served on the juries of several international film festivals, including Locarno and Venice. He has taught at many universities in India and the USA, including Delhi University, Columbia, the City University of New York and Harvard . Amitav Ghosh is a rare breed.He bade adieu to teaching long back.He is now busy in reading and learning. Every book means a lot of research for Amitav Ghosh. He studies the place. What he did in his youth is important. But even in his old age he gives equal importance to hard work and research for writing a book. Just imagine, for writing the book, River of Smoke at the age of 55 he took nearly three and a half years travelling and reading. It is to write the second book of his Ibis trilogy he spent several weeks in Guangzhou and learnt some Cantonese to depict the background of the novel which is set in Fanquit town. This explains why Amitav Ghosh writes history and fiction equally well. In his novels he creates an entire world out of an even a small village. In the same way he wrote book after book. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, and The Hungry Tide. His first novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy and his recent one is River of Smoke
Amitav Ghosh's debut novel The Circle of Reason is an indication of great things to come. The novel does not have much of a story. It has great characters, won the Prix Medicis Etranger, one of France's top literary awards, Portrayal of memorable characters and to weave a neat plot out of them is now the forte of Amitav’s novel, but it was his Achiles’s heel in The Circle of Reason. He has created memorable characters and situations in that debut novel, but has failed to string them together in a meaty story .The storyline veers around a local would-be scientist who is in love with phrenology and goes around measuring all the villagers' heads, and a small boy .It turns tragic, hilarious, and profoundly philosophic . True to Amitav's style, his characters are well etched, although he has tended to stretch the uni-dimension that he fixates on a little more this time. His attention to detail was immaculate as in his later novels, though occasionally distracting. The boarder town hosting refugees serves as seting for this vivid and magical story. The novel traces the misadventures of Alu, a young master weaver in a small Bengali village who is falsely accused of terrorism. Alu flees his home, travelling through Bombay to the Persian Gulf to North Africa with a bird-watching policeman in pursuit. This is a strange novel. In fact in this magical realism Amitav makes a claim on literary turf held by Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie.
Amitav’s narrative represents a prodigious feat of research and the novels that follow are excellent examples of it. With a Calcutta background, Amitav who studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford and his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi developed a broad minded progressive anti-colonial approach . His scholarly self mingled with the writer’s self in him. He earned a doctorate at Oxford before he wrote his first novel, which was published in 1986.The Shadow Lines and The Glass Palace, which deal movingly and powerfully with post-imperial dislocations in Bengal and Burma. The characters are delineated with integrity and dignity. He...
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