Tag-Archive for ◊ e.g. ◊

Author:
• Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Amitav Ghosh was born in 1956 into a middle-class Bengali Hindu family in Calcutta, India, to a lieutenant colonel father and a housewife mother. He grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He received a B.A. degree in 1976 and an M.A. degree in 1978 from the University of Delhi followed by a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Oxford in 1982. As well as working as a newspaper reporter and editor, Ghosh also taught at the University of Delhi, the American University in Cairo, Columbia University in New York City and Queens College in New York.

Amitav Ghosh is a novelist, an essayist and a non-fiction writer. He has received prestigious awards including the Prix Médicis étranger, The Padma Shri, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Frankfurt International e-Book Award and he has been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and for the Man Asian Literary Prize. The Shadow Lines, Ghosh’s second novel, published in 1988, won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar.

Ghosh is now a full-time writer. He lives between the USA and India with his wife Deborah Baker,
who is a biographer, an essayist and a senior editor at Little Brown and Company, a publishing house in the USA. The couple have two children.

The Shadow Lines is set against a historical background that moves back and forth from the second world war in England to the nineteen-sixties in India, leading to the eighties and interwoven with the fictitious lives of the characters. The author tackles a specific theme: the power of memory, the art of remembering almost everything and how one can travel, virtually, to various places through one’s memories. The writer brings together, through the main nameless character, various periods of time and series of events experienced by generations of the family and friends in Calcutta, Dhaka and London.

Events start decades before the narrator’s birth and end on the eve of his return from London to Delhi. After becoming a mature young man and after studying in London for one year, he comes to terms with the fact that there is no longer hope of having his beautiful cousin, Ila, share his love now that she is married to Nick and madly in love with him despite their misfitted marriage. Before leaving London the narrator also finds out from May, Tridib’s lover and Mrs Price’s daughter, the truth about the mysterious death of his elder cousin and mentor, Tridib, while visiting Dhaka during the Bangladeshi revolt.

Tridib is a great story-teller, through his tales of London and various other topics like “Mesopotamian stelae, East European jazz, the habits of arboreal apes, the plays of Garcia Lorca, there seem to be no end to things he could talk about”, make everything real for his younger cousin. Both cousins are gifted with vivid memories, an acute sense of perception of the past as well as a strong desire to learn new things to feed their imagination. Additionally, the narrator’s grandmother, through her many stories about Dhaka, where she was born before settling in Calcutta, has “no home but in her memory” and she makes the narrator feel as if he was there with her.

The narrator realises, while sitting on the edge of a camp bed in the cellar back in Raibajar with his beloved cousin, Ila, surrounded by objects that carry a lot of memories, like ghosts of time, that “they were not ghosts at all: the ghostliness was merely the absence of time and distance – for that is all that a ghost is, a presence displaced in time”.

The Shadow Lines is a compassionate, powerfully moving novel in many ways. Ghosh masterfully expresses his thoughts in his eloquent writing. His characters are well depicted in an interesting, vast array of individuality. The narrator is a passionately imaginative recorder of the events and lives of people around him. The young Tridib is an idle, avid, multifarious intellectual. Ila is portrayed as a spoiled, beautiful young bohemian seeking complete freedom in her new world and although born an upper-class Indian, feels devoid of identity. Tha’mma’s husband dies when she is thirty two years old and in order to survive, she works for twenty seven years as a schoolmistress in Calcutta. She is hard working and authoritarian unlike her only sister, Mayadebi, who is richly married and referred to ironically as “Queen Victoria” by her elder sister. There is also the very old friends of Tridib’s family, Mrs Price, and her two children, May and Nick.

The violence in Dhaka and Calcutta described subtly by Ghosh and shown as incomprehensible and aberrant brutality, as in the violent death of the innocent Tridib, sadly still exists today in many other places of the world, e.g. in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Israel, Yemen and Bahrain. In his novel, Ghosh describes shadow lines that create a seemingly unbridgeable gap producing bloodshed. These lines leave their shadows wherever they happen to be. They are irrationally man-made in order to divide people and separate countries artificially. While wars, religions, partitions and violence alienate people and nations, at least the power of memory combined with imagination keeps them united.

If you enjoyed reading this article or found it useful, please consider donating the cost of a cup of coffee to help maintain the site...
Author:
• Saturday, March 03rd, 2007

Suzanna Arundhati Roy was born on the 24th November 1961, the daughter of a Christian woman from Kerala and a Bengali Hindu tea planter. Her parents divorced when she was a child. She hardly knew her father, she only saw him a couple of times in her whole life.

“I grew up in very similar circumstances to the children in the book. My mother was divorced. I lived on the edge of the community in a very vulnerable fashion. Then when I was 16 I left home and lived on my own… in a squatter’s colony in Delhi.” She made some money by selling empty beer bottles. Later on she joined the Delhi School of Architecture.

Arundhathi Roy spent her childhood in Aymenem, province of Kerala, she said: “a lot of the atmosphere of The God of Small Things is based on my experiences of what it was like to grow up in Kerala. Most interestingly, it was the only place in the world where religions coincide, there’s Christianity, Hinduism, Marxism and Islam and they all live together and rub each other down. When I grew up it was the Marxism that was very strong, it was like revolution is coming next week. I was aware of the different cultures when I was growing up, and I am still aware of them now… To me, I couldn’t think of a better location for a book about human beings. I think the kind of landscape that you grew up in, it lives in you. I don’t think it’s true of people who have grown up in cities so much, you may love building but I don’t think you can love it in the way that you love a tree or a river or the colour of the earth, it’s a different kind of love.”

“The God of Small Things is a very sad book and somehow the sadness is what stays with me. It took five years to write and I keep finding myself making an effort to be happy. A lot of people ask is it autobiographical? It’s a very difficult question to answer because I think all fiction does spring from your experience, but it’s also the melding of the imagination and your experience. It is the emotional texture of the book and the feelings which are real. Even though I think of myself as a writer, I can’t write unless it comes from within.”

Arundhati Roy’s first novel “The God of Small Things”, was published on April 4th 1997 in Delhi and won the Booker prize in London on October 14th 1997. The rights to her book were sold in 21 countries and was translated to 18 languages. Two weeks later, nearly 400,000 copies had been sold all over the world. It has since topped the best-seller lists everywhere. In October 1997 Arundhati Roy became the first non-expatriate Indian author and the first Indian woman to win the Booker prize.

After “The God of Small Things” was published, Arundhati Roy dedicated her time and effort to other non-fiction subjects. She wrote books like “The Cost of Living” in 1999, “The Algebra of Injustice” in 2002, “Power Politics” in 2002, “War Talk” in 2003, “An Ordinary Person’s Guide To Empire” in 2004, “Public Power In The Age of Empire” in 2004, and “The Check Book” and “The Cruise Missile” in 2004.

She also wrote essays, articles and has given several speeches. “Insult and Injury in Afghanistan” in 2001, “War is Peace” in 2001, “Stop Bombing Afghanistan” and “Instant Democracy” in 2003.

In 2002 she was awarded the Lannan Foundation’s cultural Freedom Award “for her ongoing work in the struggle for freedom, justice and cultural diversity.” And in 2004 she won the Sydney Peace Prize “for her work in social campaigns and her advocacy of non-violence”.

She was presented with the Sahitya Akademi award in 2006 for her collection of essays on contemporary issues in her book “The Algebra of Infinite Justice”, but she declined to accept it.

The God of Small Things is set in Aymenem, a province of Kerala, in southern India, in 1969. It is a story of the decline and fall of an Indian family.

After the death of Sophie Mol and the scandal of Ammu and Velutha, the whole family is shattered beyond retrieve.

The story is narrated by seven year old Rahel who moves crabwise, backwards and forwards. In fact it’s a constant shuttle between the twins Rahel and Estha’s past. They learn that things can change in a day and that life can take sometimes an ugly twist. “A few dozen hours can affect the outcome of a whole lifetime” Estha predicted. It took only Chacko’s ex English wife, Margaret Kochamma and his daughter, Sophie Mol, to arrive on a Christmas visit to Aymenem for the tragedy to unfold. Estha will go through a terrible experience with “the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man” that no child should ever experience. It’s also during this visit that Ammu will discover her love to the untouchable Velutha, and that Sophie Mol will drown in the river and die.

The book begins from the end, the whole story is a flash back. The novel tackles important issues like family, race and class. Through the narrator we are confronted with a very conservative society, no one is allowed to break the rules or cross the frontier of long established things.

The novel portrays very varied characters, some endearing and some less so. The description of the landscape is detailed which helps the reader to be transported to Aymenem.

Arundhati Roy’s style of writing is original and unique. She plays with words, repeats sentences, creates her own vocabulary “a viable, dieable age”. “Little Man. He lived in a caravan. Dum dum”.

“For me, the way words and paragraphs fall on the page matters as well ?the graphic design of the language. That was why the words and thoughts of Estha and Rahel were so playful on the page…Words were broken apart, and then sometimes fused together. “Later” became. “Lay. Ter”. “An owl” become “A Nowl”. “Sour metal smell” became “sourmetalsmell”.

“Repetition I love, and used because it made me feel safe. Repeated words and phrases have a rocking feeling, like a lullaby. They help take away the shock of the plot.”

“The God of Small Things” is not just about small things, it’s about how the smallest things connect to the biggest things – that’s the important thing. And that’s what writing will always be about for me…”