In conjunction with Kenyon’s English Department and Department of Asian Studies, The Kenyon Review is excited to announce a reading with acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh on September 5th, at 7:00pm in Bolton Theater at Kenyon College. Ghosh will read from his new novel River of Smoke, the second installment in his Ibis trilogy. Ghosh will also give a talk about his work on Thursday, September 6th at 11:10am in the Cheever Room of Finn House.
In describing the genesis of the Ibis trilogy, Ghosh explains an encounter with Indian sailors in an Alexandrian bar that sparked his interest in the diaspora, in the travel, and ultimately in the migration of Indians throughout the world in the nautical age:
This was my closest encounter with a way of life that has persisted for centuries, albeit, in state of near-spectral invisibility. When we think of the many-masted sailships that once roamed the oceans, we tend to think of their crews as consisting of crusty sea-salts recruited from London’s East End, or from the whaling ports of New England. But the truth is that many—sometimes most—members of these crews were men like those I’d encountered at the Athens Bar in Alexandria.
In the lists and manifests of British and American sailing ships, these men were generally listed as ‘lascars’—a term that derives from a Perso-Arabic word for a mercenary or paid hand. These men came from many different parts of the Indian Ocean rim: the coast of East Africa, the ports of modern Malaysia and Indonesia, the shores of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and so on. But the majority seem to have come from the Indian subcontinent, in particular from my native province, Bengal.
Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria and is the author of The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and Sea of Poppies, which is the first volume of a projected series of novels, The Ibis Trilogy. The Circle of Reason was awarded France’s Prix Médicis in 1990, and The Shadow Lines won two prestigious Indian prizes the same year, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke award for 1997 and The Glass Palace won the International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt book fair in 2001. In January 2005 The Hungry Tide was awarded the Crossword Book Prize, a major Indian award. His novel, Sea of Poppies (2008) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2008 and was awarded the Crossword Book Prize and the IndiaPlaza Golden Quill Award. He published River of Smoke with John Murray (UK) in June 2011; Penguin India (July, 2011) and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (US) in October 2011.
Amitav Ghosh’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and he has served on the Jury of the Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) and the Venice Film Festival (2001). His essays have been published in the New Yorker, New Republic and the New York Times. His essays have been published by Penguin India (The Imam and The Indian) and Houghton Mifflin USA (Incendiary Circumstances). He has taught in many universities in India and the USA, including Delhi University, Columbia, Queens College and Harvard. In January 2007 he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest honors, by the President of India. In 2010, Ghosh was awarded honorary doctorates by Queens College, New York, and the Sorbonne, Paris. Along with Margaret Atwood, he was also a joint winner of a Dan David Award for 2010. In 2011 he was awarded the International Grand Prix of the Blue Metropolis Festival in Montreal. He serves as an advisory editor for The Kenyon Review.