In Amitav Ghosh's, "In an Antique Land", the author compares his life with that of a slave named Bomma. He reveals that both men live in antique lands, foreign to their culture and surrounded by very different people. Ghosh also relates the book to Percy Bysshe Shelly's poem Ozymandias, a piece on mankind's hubris and the insignificance of the individual. Ghosh effectively juxtaposes Bomma's life with his own as he tries to find himself and unlock the slaves past through the ancient papers of the Cairo Geniza. Through historical details and antidotes, the author proves how a place can be both antique and contemporary.
The title of the book comes from not only Ghosh's study of the history of the Middle East, but his observation on the true meaning of "antique". Although he lives in 20th century Egypt, many of the customs of the town are ancient and outdated. The people live amongst historic structures and blindly believe that there culture has progressed. Arranged marriages are common and often within families in order to keep land within the blood line. Property and trade are one of the most important aspects, much like the culture of Bomma's time. Bomma himself involved in slavery and much of the information about him relates to the commerce of him and his master.
Percy Shelly reveals that observers of foreign places are under just as much as speculation and criticism as what they view. He also describes an antique land as being a place of ruins with colorful people that are not usually taken seriously. The observer automatically puts a label on the destination he or she visits and feels as if they have no connection to the world they are visiting. He also finds a unique irony in the fact that the statues and precious pillars of antique lands are foolishly believed to last forever. Realistically, these ancient lands will only survive their artists, and left for the observer to judge the history. Shelly relates Ozymandias' statue as a mortal...
Cited: Ghosh, Amitav. In an Antique Land. New York City: First Vintage Departures, 1994.
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