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Friday, 1 July 2011

'Loss of intelligentsia is a disaster for Bengal'

Three years after the internationally acclaimed beginning to his masterful epic, the Ibis Trilogy, with the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Sea Of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh returns with a spectacular novel depicting the further adventures of those aboard the Ibis.

Ghosh, who graduated from St Stephen's New Delhi and earned a doctorate in Oxford, began his career as a wordsmith with the Indian Express, before going on to write essays, fiction, seven major novels (The Hungry Tide, The Glass Palace, The Calcutta Chromosome among them) and teaching literature both in India and the United States.

Ghosh appeared on Rediff chat on Friday.

Here is the transcript:

Amitav Ghosh says: Hello there, readers. This is Amitav Ghosh. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Dfd says: What moved you to pen the River Of Smoke?

Amitav Ghosh says: Dear Dfd, the most important motivation was to follow the career of its main character who is Bahram Modi. Readers of Sea of Poppies will remember him as the father of Ahfatt.

Deepon says: Hi, I am 26 and a big fan! Since your books are so into the history and anthropology of a place or event, I was wondering how an idea of a story forms in your mind? Does the history turn into a story or the story is mixed with the history.

The second question would be: What is with the fascination with human faeces? Every ime you want to show a destitute or crazy guy he's always covered in his own faeces.

Amitav Ghosh says: Dear Deepon, for me all stories start with my characters. It is when I start thinking of my characters that the rest are filled in. As for faeces, incontntinence is one of the notable symptoms for withdrawal from opium addiction.

NaveenKanchnath says: It is an honour to chat with you Mr Ghosh; thanks to rediff for facilitating this.

The increased number of authors of Indian origin winning Pulitzer and Booker prizes more frequently than before is being attributed by some sections (mostly Anglo-Saxon) as decisions being influenced by publishing houses at the expense of authors from the West, so that more Indians are likely to take to reading of English literature. Your views?

Amitav Ghosh says: Dear Naveen, I have not heard of anything to that effect.

HungryTide says: Dear Mr Ghosh, I loved The Glass Palace. How do you decide how much fiction to mix with fact in such a book?

Amitav Ghosh says: Dear HungryTide, it depends on the nature of the narrative. I mean the stories of each of the characters is fictional, but the backdrop is certainly realistic.

GaneshNadar says: Your books are so well-researched. How much time do you spend researching before you start writing?

Amitav Ghosh says: Dear GaneshNadar, for me, the research and the writing go together. It is not like they are a separate process.

Bablu says: How different is your current novel from previous ones? Will you kindly reply?

Amitav Ghosh says: Dear Bablu, in some ways it is completely different because I have never written about such a character or a setting be

fore. But there are also certain continuities of theme

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