Empirical & Versatile: Why These Amitav Ghosh Works Will Find Space On Your Bookshelf
The Man Who Pens Gold
A master storyteller, a craftsman of words, Amitav Ghosh who turns 63 today is so much more than just the author of bestselling books. Ghosh is the first English author to be conferred the Jnanpith Award 2018 for his outstanding contribution to English literature.
His writing has this innate ability to connect the past with the present and weave through beautifully varied worlds. While reading his works, one can easily traverse from the historical era to the modern era. Ghosh has often said that although he writes in English, but he processes his thoughts in Bengali. The author had a multicultural upbringing what with spending his formative years in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He currently resides in New York with his wife Deborah Baker.
The author's works deal with themes of history, travel, political strife, diaspora, love. They tend to go across borders, countries, are often larger-than-life. The winner of numerous awards, his work has been translated into more than 30 languages and has served on the juries of Locarno and Venice film festivals. His latest offering, 'Gun Island' is a thought-provoking piece about climate change, migration and the refugee crisis. Here's a look at five must-reads of the author:
'The Circle of Reason'
Published in 1986, this was Ghosh's debut novel. The book also won France’s prestigious Prix Médicis in 1990. Chronicling the adventures of a young weaver, Alu, an orphan, who is wrongly suspected of being a terrorist. The main protagonist encounters a host of characters on his exhaustive journey spanning borders. Alu travels from Kolkata to Goa and boards a fishing trawler that illegally ships immigrants to Africa. You will easily be drawn into their lives by various incidents which are compellingly told.
'The Shadow Lines'
This is Ghosh's second novel and the winner of two prestigious Indian-origin awards, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. Based primarily in Calcutta, Dhaka and London, the book is about a boy who visualises an image of London in his thoughts so vivid that when he visits the place years later, he recognises it just from the way he had imagined it to be. The novel is full of characters and colour.
'The Calcutta Chromosome'
Again an award-winning classic from Ghosh's stable. The book which was published in 1996 won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The novel which is in an interesting flashback format, begins in the future and dates back to the 19th century. The central character, L.Murugan is in search of what is known as 'The Calcutta Chromosome', trying to solve the mystery behind malaria in 1898 in Calcutta. The book follows events from the Victorian era to near-future New York.
'The Glass Palace'
Winner of the International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt book fair in 2001, the novel is set in the British era in the year 1885. The book is about a poor boy from a village who goes on to create an empire in the Burmese teak forest. Ghosh beautifuly weaves the struggles behind what have created the legacy of India, Burma and Malaysia.
'Sea Of Poppies'
The 2008 novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize(2008) and was awarded the Crossword Book Prize and the India Plaza Golden Quill Award. Set in the period of colonial upheaval, Ghosh beautifully describes the lush poppy fields of the Ganga, rolling high seas, and the streets of Canton. This masterpiece encapsulates the colonial history of the East, amking everything seem alive.