Author- Amitav Ghosh
The back of the novel has a comment by Khushwant Singh saying- ‘This is how a language should be used’ and that lines resonated in my mind as I read this wonderful masterpiece by Amitav Ghosh. The book has a narrative that shifts back and forth in past and present and it is all woven very beautifully.
One beautiful thing about this novel is that it has no breathers. There is no way you can consider a part of it read or be done with a chapter or a section. You have to read it in the same breath and if you fall behind, you need to go back, revise where you had left and then resume. It is not one of the books you take lightly. Also, there are no threads left bare and hanging in the end, it is all perfectly sewn together so that the ending feels like a well-crafted, well-orchestrated landing.
The novel is a first person account of a guy who grows up in Calcutta (and not Kolkata) and his life is sprinkled with ripple effects arising from Dhaka, London, Sri Lanka, Kashmir and other places. It actually is an amusing thing when the protagonist picks up a compass and draws a circle with radius comprising the distance between Dhaka and Kashmir. It drives home the author’s point in more ways than one and lets the discerning eye read the message about the interconnected nature of our lives and also the pointlessness behind conflicts.
The language is smooth and the effort that must have gone behind coming up with the right words and the right phrases doesn’t really show. Of course, the novel is completely Indian in its feelings and narration and that’s why, I can see why some Westerners might be having a problem reading it with ease.
For me, it was a job well done and it totally deserved the Sahitya Akadmi award that it got.