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Amitav Ghosh: 5 Facts you should know

Amitav Ghosh
December 14, 2018

One who hasn’t heard the name Amitav Ghosh is neither an avid reader of novels nor a news enthusiast. In a career spanning over 22 years (and counting), he has written a number of popular books usually in the ‘historical-fiction’ genre.

Although born in Kolkata and brought up in a number of cities or rather countries, Ghosh is presently settled in New York with his wife Deborah Baker and two children- Lila and Nayan

Here are some facts about Amitav Ghosh that all his fans should know:

A prolific writer

So far, Ghosh has written 8 fictional books and 6 in the non-fiction genre. Although most of his books have been a huge commercial success, he is best-remembered for The Shadow Lines (1988) and the ‘Ibis trilogy’ that consists of Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011) and Flood of Fire (2015), which chronicle a fictional account of the Opium trade run by the East India Company between India and China.

Learnt ancient languages for his books

old picture of Amitav Ghosh

An ‘Ancient’ picture of Amitav Ghosh

In order to write his debut non-fiction book, In an Antique Land (1992), Ghosh had to first decipher certain manuscripts written in the Judeo-Arabic language. He had two ways to go about this- either hire a translator or learn the language himself. While most would go with the former option, Ghosh opted to get acquainted with the language himself.

In another instance, for Sea of poppies, Amitav Ghosh learnt the ‘Laskari’, a language spoken by sailors of the time. Laskari, which is a hybrid of Portuguese, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam and Arabic, is even used to this day in the nautical language.

Has won a plethora of Awards

Amitav Ghosh being honoured with the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award

While Sea of Hobbies was considered for the 2008 Booker Prize, its second-installment, River of Smoke, was shortlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Prize. In addition, his entire body of work was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in May of 2015.

Hey, wait! the list does not end here…

He was bestowed with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, in 2007. Furthermore, for his depictions of the 20th century life, Amitav Ghosh, along with Canadian author Margaret Atwood, was awarded Israel’s Dan David Prize in 2010.

Only recently (2018), he was honoured yet again, with the Jnanpith Award for his “outstanding contribution towards literature”.

The Glass Palace (2000) was inspired by stories his Father and Uncle told him

Ghosh spent his teenage years in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as his family moved around with his ex-soldier father on various secondments to the Indian government. During these voyages, his father and uncle used to tell him stories about their bravery and life during the second world war, wherein they were deployed in Burma. On growing up, Ghosh utilized the memories of these stories and converted them into one of his best-selling novels known as ‘The Glass Palace’!

Ghosh is proud of just one thing…

In an interview with a reputed daily, Ghosh said that the fact he has always been able to support himself and his family through his passion- writing, is the biggest accomplishment of his life, even ‘bigger’ than the sense of pride his never-ending awards bring to him!

Notably, since the last 25 years, he has held only one job- as a distinguished professor at The City University of New York.

Do you like Amitav Ghosh’s books? Or is there any novel by him which is your favourite? Kindly tell us in the comments section below.

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