In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh (Some Recent Readings)

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Item Code: NAI184
Author: Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya
Publisher: Orient Blackswan Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788125051664
Pages: 298
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 460 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


In the aftermath of the Rushdie phenomenon, a whole new breed of Indian writers in English arose in the 1980s, and Amitav Ghosh, with his subtle experimentation in both his fiction and non-fiction, is one of the most famous. His formidable literary output, never away from critical gaze, still offers scope for newer ways of interpretation. The editors of the present volume steer a time-worthy re-looking into the rich literary wealth of Ghosh without breaking the critical lineage in Ghosh studies. A 'new' and valid critical frame can well be structured around the notion of civilizational crisis that often haunts the author's search for ethical meaning. The contributors of In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh touch upon this compelling aspect of Ghosh's writing in their separate ways. The highlight of this compendium is a candid and revealing interview with Amitav Ghosh.


About the Author


Tapan Kumar Ghosh is an Associate Professor of English at Tarakeswar Degree College, Hooghly (West Bengal). He obtained a PhD for his research on the fiction of Arun Joshi and his publications include Arun Joshi's Fiction: The Labyrinth of Life, Salmon Rushdie's Midnight's Children: A Reader's Companion, Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook: A Critical Study and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart: A Critical Study, as also scholarly articles on Rabindranath Tagore, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Shashi Tharoor, Mukul Kesavan, and other writers.


Prasanta Bhattacharya is an Assistant Professor of English at Rabindra Mahavidyalaya, Hooghly, and visiting faculty in the department of English at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. He received a PhD for his work on the first wave of English Gothic literature and has also published over thirty essays, articles and translations.




AMitav Ghosh is unquestionably one of the most serious writers crafting fiction in English today. He is acknowledged by many as the finest practitioner of the genre among those who emerged out of the post-Midnight's Children boom in Indian English fiction in the 1980s. He has written consistently good novels and non-fictional prose works which have won great acclaim both in India and abroad. Amitav Ghosh has been the subject of many- critical works and many more are likely to be published due to his growing global popularity. Critics have recognised his extraordinary virtuosity as a faithful chronicler of the contemporary world, one who has enhanced our knowledge of buried histories and has borne an eloquent witness to some of the momentous events of our times.


Ghosh's oeuvre comprises seven major novels and five important works of non-fiction. His corpus is not only fairly extensive, but is so splendid in its epistemological ambition and-narrative scope, that to make a comprehensive assessment is a challenging job. It is not surprising therefore, that so far no critical work has managed to do justice to the totality of Ghosh's literary output or convincingly come to terms with it. The available books dealing with Ghosh's oeuvre do not include a detailed discussion of his non-fictional prose or recent works like Sea qf Poppies and River of Smoke and are thus neither comprehensive nor up-to-date. It is exactly here that the importance and relevance of the current volume lies. In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings contains some serious and significant research articles on various aspects of the author's works and provides a comprehensive and updated introduction to Amitav Ghosh as a writer. This volume comprises critical essays on all the works (both fiction and non-fiction) of Ghosh, including his latest tour-de-force, River qf Smoke and, as such, will prove very useful to students, teachers and research scholars. Many of these essays provide new perspectives on, and possibly even attempt a reassessment of, Ghosh as a creative artist. The most distinguishing feature of this volume is an interview with the author himself This e-interview, conducted in September 2011 when the author was in Salvador (Brazil) on a book-launching tour, is perhaps the most recent interview given by him. The interview reveals little known aspects of this very well-known author's personality and explores some of his serious concerns which act as a major creative impulse behind his works.


This volume is a collection of sixteen research papers, some of which were presented at a UGC-sponsored national seminar on the author and his works at Tarakeswar Degree College, West Bengal, in March 2011. These papers have been thoroughly revised and updated for publication. Critical works dealing with Ghosh's novels have examined them in the context of his interrogation of national, linguistic and generic boundaries as well as the theoretical discussion of subaltern histories, trans-national literature, migration and diaspora. The contributors in the present volume however, attempt to go beyond the subaltern syndrome and place the author instead, in different phases of civilisational concerns and in the search for a kind of civilisational ethic. Their articles combine meticulous scholarship and detailed textual analysis to address the multiple issues motivated by Ghosh's fiction. This volume is also remarkable, as noted earlier, in that it features a number of essays on Ghosh's non-fictional prose works. These essays reveal a novelist who is both a formidable thinker and a man of ideas but available titles have either ignored or only marginally touched upon this aspect of Ghosh studies. While selecting the articles for this volume, no compromise has been made with regard to merit and readability. Unlike other monographs and anthologies of essays on Ghosh's works, the present volume offers no uncritical accolade. It also analyses Ghosh's drawbacks as an author and the limitations of his art. In summation, this volume attempts an objective and impartial assessment of Amitav Ghosh as a creative writer through a critical evaluation of his entire literary oeuvre, from The Circle if Reason to River if Smoke.


A number of people have extended their spontaneous help and cooperation towards the completion and publication of this volume. But we must mention the names of Makarand R. Paranjape, Shyamal Kumar Chatterjee, Sajal Kumar Bhattacharya, Sisir Kumar Chatterjee, Debabrata Chowdhury and Sipra Ghosh. To them we owe a very special debt of gratitude.




While living in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi often quarrelled with his landlord regarding the efficacy of learning English. Himself an adept user of the language, the Mahatma rigidly resisted the pragmatic logic of his landlord and stuck to the principle of not giving over or exposing his children to the benefits of English education. His antipathy only increased when the struggles for Indian independence reached their peak and he considered it an unpatriotic act for educated Indians to try to express themselves in the master's language. This idea was further strengthened when Rabindranath Tagore joined this anti-English campaign as part of his broader, anti-colonial programme. The English-knowing Indian intellectuals started to doubt their creative skills while trying to authentically articulate their feelings vis-a-vis the Raj and its imperial, often very repressive, system of administration. This doubt can be attributed especially to Gandhi and Tagore's pronouncements, both of whom were regarded as two of the greatest political and cultural icons steering the direction of India's emancipation from colonial rule. Interestingly, however, we should note in this context that it was precisely Gandhiji's ability to communicate in English, and that too in clear, lucid terms, which added to his prestige as a no-nonsense interlocutor at the Round Table Conferences. This held true despite the British establishment's politically motivated description, cleverly disseminated by the British media, of his popular image as a sage in terms of a half-naked, oriental prodigy. Further, his confident dealings with the coloniser's language through his writings never made him look very "un-Indian", something he feared about others who were similarly using English as a medium of expression. In this context, the case of Tag ore is even more interesting: his Gitanjali (1910) had to be translated as Song Offirings (1912) with judicious help from "foreign" friends before he could lay his claim to the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature.


It was in this seeming paradox that the future progress and flourish of English both as a lingua franca and as a literary language lay.


Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay is a perfect example of the early brand of Indian English writers whose diffidence, grammatically correct though stiff English, and imitation of Watter Scott or W. W. Reynolds clearly show that they were responding to English as a colonial language. Later, both Chattopadhyay, the author of Rajmohun's Wife (1864) and the poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt made a significant switch and began writing in Bengali thereby indicating even more clearly how the nationalist debate influenced Indian writers who had first chosen to write in English. However, this group of late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century writers were followed by a new group of novelists who arose mainly during the 1930s and unlike their predecessors, they never thought of English as a foreign tongue. Mulk Raj Anand, R. K. Narayan and Raja Rao consciously decided in favour of English as their chosen mode of literary expression because they thought, and rightly so, that after centuries of indigenisation, English no longer remained a "foreign" language. But to accommodate the typical Indian spirit and emotional make-up, the English language had to be freed from its essentially "foreign" moorings. Thus began the project of de- colonizing English along with the process of de-colonizing the Indian psyche. The varied and many Indian phrases and turns of speech were literally translated in order to re-shape the master's language and to effectively make it a suitable vehicle for writing about the sentiments and addressing the needs of a non-white community of readers. A certain regionalism, however, crept into the writings because their authors tried to write about regions they were most familiar with. But the newest among this group - Anita Desai, Khushwant Singh and Arun Joshi - mainly in the 1960s and '70s, started articulating a pan-Indian approach to writing which is wider in scope but has a distinct urban character about it. Salman Rushdie's literary ancestry lies in this urbane, pan-Indian mode of novel writing. But when he burst onto the literary scene with Midnight's Children (1981), he did away with both the sophistication of a Desai or Joshi and the regionalism so much a favourite with Narayan, Rao or Anand. Rushdie's representation of Mumbai as a bustling, chaotic and messy Indian metropolis with its ingrained cosmopolitanism makes it a miniaturised metaphoric locale that represents the whole Indian subcontinent where many languages are spoken and many cultures co-exist.


The bold and highly experimental technique of Rushdie's writing paved the way for a new breed of Indian writers in English who arose mainly in the 1980s and in the aftermath of the Rushdie phenomenon. Writers like Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry and Amitav Ghosh started writing about India as a country which is globally interlinked with other nations and activities of the world. India's potential, as one of the most ancient but still persisting and flourishing civilisations, becomes a literary property with its really interesting story or stories to tell. The many tellers of this Indian tale take to different routes of narration. Amitav Ghosh, for one, is a writer whose style combines the rigours of social research with the masterly ability of spinning a yarn. As a master storyteller, Amitav Ghosh can effectively camouflage history, philosophy, science and other social events and concerns that actually make a 'story' within the surprising turns and twists of a riveting narrative. But this is common knowledge that we come to hare in our general appreciation of all the master storytellers of the world like Valmiki, Dickens or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. However, it is the subtle interplay of all these worldly ingredients that the storyteller works out, the pattern or design oflife that he or she weaves, which really creates separate hallmarks to distinguish one writer from the other. By now, we all recognise that the "story" element has been a very strong part of Amitav Ghosh's writings. Even his non-fictional prose is rendered immensely readable through the use of small anecdotal recounting of events. This should give us a clue about Ghosh's forte: he is always interested in the "story" of history or histories, ranging from the very personal to the transnational. We all know the amount of labour he would put into his research before embarking upon a new project, but as always, it is the "story" which would be given a clear, winning priority over the new and critically nuanced findings of buried history. Even in the interview arranged for this critical volume, Ghosh re-emphasises this priority which is set every time he embarks on a journey of writing.


Ghosh could concentrate on the "story" because a typical haunting or ghostliness, which he has sometimes described as "epiphanic" moments, characterises his writerly search for compelling fiction. Ghosts have their stories to tell, and of course, in a significant














Amitav Ghosh: A Bio-bibliography



An Interview



Amitav Ghosh: In Conversation with Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. Paranjape



Ghosh Worldview: Macro Analyses



Mutations of The Calcutta Chromosome? Amitav Ghosh and the Mapping of a "Minor" Literature



Makarand R. Paranjape



Cosmopolitans of a Borderless Space


Anjali Gera Roy


The Water Narrative in Amitav Ghosh


Samik Bandyopadhyay


Amitav Ghosh qua Storier-Historian: Some on Thoughts Nation and Race


Sumit Chakravorty


Amitav Ghosh: Readings of his Fiction



Trapped in the Circle: A Postcolonial Critique of "Reason" in Amitav Ghosh's The Circle of Reason



Samrat Laskar



Footprints on Water: The Shadow Lines



Sisir Kumar Chatterjee and Abhijit Gupta



The Calcutta Chromosome: A Study Pradip Ranjan Sengupta



"Live My Prince; Hold On to Your Life": Issues of Transnational Life and Identity in Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace



Sajalkumar Bhattacharya



The Tides of History: Changing Currents of History and Identity in The Hungry Tide



Piyas Chakrabarti



Sea of Poppies and the Narrative of Exclusion Siddhartha Biswas



Vernacular Nostalgia to Hybrid Pidgins: A Study of Linguistic Bridges in River of Smoke



Samrat Laskar



Amitav Ghosh: Readings of his Non-Fiction



"Subversive History in the Guise of a Traveller's Tale": A Postmodern Assignation of Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land



Saptarshi Mallick



Dancing in Cambodia: Nativist Assertion against the Absoluteness" of Defeat



Samik Dasgupta



Countdown: Towards a Crisis of Civilization



Jolly Das



We-ing and They-ing: Othering and Violence in The lmam and the Indian



Sisir Kumar Chatterjee and Abhijit Gupta



Representation of Violence: Amitav Ghosh's Incendiary Circumstances



Sandip Ain



Select Bibliography



The Contributors






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