Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956 and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied history and social anthropology in Delhi and Oxford. While a student he worked as a journalist for the »Indian Express«, which was one of the few Indian newspapers to oppose the State of Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975. Later, after learning Arabic in Tunis he carried out field research for his doctorate in Egypt. His first, prizewinning book »The Circle of Reason« (1986) was written while Ghosh was a young lecturer in Trivandrum and New Delhi. He has since published four novels and several works of non-fiction. He has taught at various universities in India and North America. His last teaching stint was at Harvard, but he no longer teaches, preferring to devote his time to his writing. Since the publication of his novel »The Glass Palace« (2000) Ghosh has been one of the most well-known English speaking Indian authors. The novel is a chronicle of a family of Indian expatriates in Burma, and is set against the background of colonialism in South Asia. It opens with the banishment of the last Burmese king by the British and relates the protagonists’ intertwined fates with elegance and suspense. They survive the colony’s struggle for independence and the Second World War, at which time young men had to choose between joining the army of their British occupiers and the »Indian National Army« which was fighting with the Japanese. From the basis of colonialism, after independence was won, today’s military dictatorship was established, whose end the protagonists hope for with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Ghosh withdrew this book from shortlist for the Commonwealth Prize. »I feel that I would be betraying the spirit of my book if I were to allow it to be incorporated within that particular memorialisation of Empire that passes under the rubric of ›the Commonwealth‹.« Ghosh’s latest novel, »Sea of Poppies«, (2008) looks further back into Indian history. It is set in 1838, when the Britsh East India Company was the largest drug-trading enterprise in the world. It follows the fortunes of several characters, including some poppy farmers from Bihar, a destitute landowner, an orphaned European girl and an American freedman, as they escape their fate in a former slaveship called the Ibis.

The author’s awards include the Prix Médicis Etranger, the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Ananda Puraskar Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Pushcart Prize. In 2007 Ghosh was awarded the Indian medal, Padma Shri, and the Premio Grinzane Cavour. He is married to the American biographer, Deborah Baker and has two children. Ghosh currently divides his time between Calcutta, Goa and Brooklyn, and is writing the next volume of what will become »The Ibis« Trilogy.

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