Wednesday 8 February 2017

Ghosh

About Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace:
"No one is directly indicted in the novel, not a single person idealised. Yet casually mentioned details get linked across space and time to form haunting patterns, their cumulative effect staying with the reader long after the novel is over. For all its vividness of description and range of human experiences, The Glass Palace will remain for me memorable mainly as the most scathing critique of British colonialism I have ever come across in fiction." - Meenakshi Mukherjee in The Hindu
I've just finished reading Ghosh's The Shadow Lines, with the quizzical subtitle, Celebrating 25 years. A difficult book to read, at least for me who reads these things is snatches, often separated by weeks and months and other novels and things to do. But the end was riveting, and then everything falls into place. Utterly penetrating.

And the day before yesterday, or whatever day it was: the utterly disturbing find of Ghosh's blog on the Japanese slaves in Goa...

In an Antique Land was even more interesting: I began reading it in 2011, months before I received the call to go to Jerusalem. It was a borrowed book, from Sheila's library, and I returned it. And then could not lay my hands on another copy for three years, until, finally, in Rome I bought a copy and finished it. By then I had been through three years in the Holy Land, learnt that the Cairo geniza was far from fictional, gone through Sacred Trash, another utterly interesting book centering around the geniza. But I had expected more from Ghosh. Perhaps that comes from the outsider viewpoint: he is somehow unable to get inside what the geniza might mean to a Jew, or even to a Christian. And the story he weaves - or finds? - in the fragments is extremely interesting, but then - he is caught between genres, I guess. Ghosh in this book cannot decide whether to do textual criticism or exegesis or simply write a novel. Impossible to classify this book. Based on the author's actual experiences of living in Egypt as a student. There are people who will actually go to the lengths of learning Arabic to write their doctoral theses. And then they go on to become novelists.

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