What Makes India's Greatest Writer Amitav Ghosh So Darned Angry?

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), January 29, 2017 | Go to article overview

What Makes India's Greatest Writer Amitav Ghosh So Darned Angry?


India, Jan. 28 -- IT'S 2017, and Amitav Ghosh is entering his 31st year as a published author - quite a milestone in the life of a non-pulp writer. (His first book, The Circle of Reason, was published in 1986). Perhaps that's why he was recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Tata Literature Live! festival. His millions of fans in India and around the world, however, point out that they're expecting many more books from their favourite author, thank you, so perhaps a lifetime award might have been a bit premature.

Yet, at this juncture of his literary career - one that in the barren, pre-liberalisation days of 1986, he'd never thought he'd have - he's a bit mystified by what's happening in the world of the arts. Specifically, Ghosh is wondering why, despite the clear and present danger of climate change, few writers are focusing on the subject at all.

Always take the weather with youAmitav Ghosh is an award-winning author, travel writer, anthropologist and climate change activist, writing both fiction and non-fiction

Ghosh's own non-fiction work on the issue, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, published last year, is still a bestseller. But as he points out, though there are quite a few books available on nature, very few say much about the biggest danger the earth has been in since the dinosaurs were wiped out several millennia ago.

"Climate change is the greatest crisis that human beings, as a species, have ever faced," says Ghosh. "Yet it is largely absent from the arts. I think this raises many serious questions." The Great Derangement was his attempt to answer these questions. His 2004 novel, The Hungry Tide, set in the fast-depleting Sundarbans, had dealt with the subject fictionally.

The human-environment interaction has long been a subject for books, in all the languages of the world. Ghosh names several Indian local language writers too: Bengal's Adwaita Mallabarman (Titash Ekti Nadir Naam), Odisha's Gopinath Mohanty (Paraja), and Maharashtra's Vishwas Patil. "But we should note that there is a big difference between 'nature' and 'climate change', which represents a profound rupture in our ecosystem," says Ghosh.

Ghosh is an award-winning author, travel writer, anthropologist and climate change activist, writing both fiction and non-fiction. His books range from historical novels to straight out travelogues to novels set in present-day circumstances, to, well, everything that interests him. Which means that his fans are interested in everything that interests him too, because genre has no place in his works. Only the writing matters.

The write stuffResearch is the backbone of all his books. Not just for his historical novels, but also for his travelogues and essays

It's hard for his fans, just emerging dreamily from his Ibis Trilogy, a series of historical novels set in India, China and the Indian Ocean at the time of the colonisation, to believe that Ghosh never imagined he could have a literary career. …

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