Tag-Archive for ◊ ghosts ◊

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.

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Author:
• Thursday, June 17th, 2010

John Banville was born in 1945 in Wexford, Ireland, from a father who worked in a garage and a housewife mother. He is the youngest of three siblings, his older brother and sister are also novelists.

He started his education in a Christian Brothers primary School followed by St Peter’s College secondary school in Wexford.

After leaving school John Banville worked for Aer Lingus in Dublin as a clerk, which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively. He moved on and has worked in journalism since 1969. He was a member of the Irish Arts Council from 1984 to 1988 and literary editor for The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.

He lives today in Dublin with his American wife whom he married in 1969 and their two adult sons.

John Banville wrote several novels, short stories and plays. His best-known novel The Sea, which is his fourteenth, was published in 2005 and won the Man Booker Prize the same year.

List of John Banville’s novels:
Nightspawn, 1971
Birchwood, 1973
Dr Copernicus, 1976
Kepler, 1981
The Newton Letter: An Interlude, 1982
Mefisto,1986
The Book of Evidence,1989
Ghosts, 1993
Athena,1995
The Ark, 1996
The Untouchable, 1997
Eclipse, 2000
Shroud, 2002
Prague Pictures: Portrait of a city, 2003
The Sea, 2005
The Infinities, 2009

The Sea is about Max Morden, a retired Irish art historian and a newly bereaved husband in his sixties. Arriving at a crossroads in his existence, he sought some comfort and escapism by returning to live in the same summer house on the Irish coast, where the Grace family once lived many years ago with their twin-children, Chloe and Myles. They became his friends in that memorable summer of his childhood, when they were all in their early teens.

Max Morden, aware of his old age, his mortal vulnerability and obsessed by death, reminisces about the past and lives in a state of constant reverie tinted with melancholic black humour. He is constantly reviewing his previous life and the time he had spent with his late wife Anna who died of cancer. He also dwells on the unforgettable summer spent with the wealthy and attractive Grace family that changed his life.

As if his recent bereavement rekindled the loss of Chloe and Myles, buried in the sea by drowning a long time ago, their deaths made him aware early in his life about the meaning of love and death, an experience which was thrust upon him as a young boy and continued to haunt him as an old man.

After his wife’s death, Max Morden decides to go back to the same Irish seaside resort of his childhood, but this time at the end of his journey, as an old man, in order to seek some solace for his meaningless existence.

The main themes of this short, subtle, remarkable, deep and powerful novel are love, loss and sad memories. Max Morden’s nostalgic thoughts of the past drift swiftly from one period to another, like the high and low tides of the sea or the waxing and waning of the moon.

The Sea has hardly a plot and no suspense, save the twist at the end, when the reader discovers that Miss Vavasour, the Cedars’ tenant, is the one and same Rose, who was Chloe’s and Myles’ governess some fifty years earlier.

The strength and beauty of the novel lies in its eloquence, intense emotions, elegant, lyrical and poetic prose, which makes it a refined work of art, that compels readers to commence their own meditation.