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Author Spotlight July 2020

Celebrating Amitav Ghosh | Author Spotlight

Amitav Ghosh turns 64 today! We are sharing our love for the master storyteller through a short snapshot of his life.

The featured image is under copyright, © Ivo van der Bent

Amitav Ghosh, one of India’s best-known writers, celebrates his 64th birthday today. He was born on 11 July 1956 in Kolkata, West Bengal and spent his early years in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Surely, these places and its people left a strong impression on him, for in his works we find an immense love for the Indian subcontinent and the surrounding oceans. 

Ghosh studied MA in social anthropology at the University of Delhi and completed his PhD in the same area at the University of Oxford. He first started working with the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. In 1999, he joined the Queens College, the City University of New York as Distinguished Professor in Comparative Literature. He is also a visiting professor at the English department of Harvard University since 2005. 

I have only read one work by him so far, The Great Derangementand I remember how much I enjoyed the book because of its meticulous research. At present, I’m reading Sea of Poppies, the first part of the Ibis trilogy, which is, what I assume will eventually build up to, an immense canvas, on the relations between the peoples of India, Britain and China in the 19th century – the time leading to the Opium Wars. I have to say, there is something epic about the scale of the stories and the scholarship behind them. You know you are reading historical fiction, but before your eyes unfold a world, so real, you begin to feel a living part of it. 

Drawing from his academic interest in anthropology, Ghosh emerges as a masterful weaver of tales. His works revolve around themes of diaspora, history, political struggle and communal violence – all centred around Indian history and the Indian way of life, especially in the periphery of the Indian Ocean.

Amitav Ghosh regularly writes essays. These have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic and The New York Times. You can stay updated on his latest works via his website – http://www.amitavghosh.com

8 Interesting Tidbits About Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh is the winner of the 54th Jnanpith award, the youngest and the only Indian English writer to win this award

Ghosh won the Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2007

Author Vikram Seth and historian Ramachandra Guha are his contemporaries from Doon School

Ghosh is most fascinated by the seas – the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean are the locations that appear the most often in his books

In 2019, Foreign Policy magazine named Ghosh as one of the most important global thinkers of the past decade

His work has been translated into over thirty languages

Ghosh is married to Deborah Baker. She is a biographer, essayist and a senior editor at Little, Brown and Company

Amitav Ghosh divides his time between Brooklyn, Kolkata and Goa

Bibliography

Gun Island The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable Flood of Fire River of Smoke Sea of Poppies The Hungry Tide Incendiary Circumstances The Imam and the Indian The Glass Palace Countdown Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma The Calcutta Chromosome In an Antique Land The Shadow Lines The Circle of Reason

Awards & Honours

  • Honorary Doctorate, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Holland, 2019
  • Jnanpith Award, 2018
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Times of India festival, Mumbai, 2018
  • Utah Award in the Environmental Humanities, 2018
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Tata Literature Live festival, Mumbai, 2017
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Puget Sound, 2014
  • Myanmar National Literature Award, 2012
  • Tagore Literature Award, Sahitya Akademi, 2012
  • Man Booker Asian Prize (shortlist), 2012
  • Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix, 2011
  • Doctorate, Honoris Causa, Sorbonne, 2010
  • Dan David Prize, 2010
  • Honorary degree, Queens College, City University of New York, 2010
  • Indiaplaza Golden Quill Popular Vote Award, 2009
  • Indiaplaza Golden Quill Award for best novel, 2009
  • Crossword Book Award, for best novel of the year, 2009
  • Man Booker Prize (shortlist), 2008
  • Asian-American Literary Award for non-fiction, 2007
  • Grinzane Cavour Prize for lifetime achievement, Turin, Italy, 2007
  • Padma Shri, The Government of India, 2007
  • Kiriyama Prize, San Francisco (finalist), 2006
  • Crossword Book Award, for best novel of the year, 2005
  • Grand Prize for Fiction, Frankfurt eBook Award, 2001
  • The Pushcart Prize, 1999
  • Nomination for American Society of Magazine Editors Award, for reporting, 1999
  • The Arthur C. Clark Award, 1996
  • Best American Essays, 1995
  • Sahitya Akademi Award (Indian Academy of Literature), 1990
  • The Ananda Puraskar, Calcutta, 1990
  • The Prix Medicis Étrangère, (Paris), 1990

Have you read any works by Amitav Ghosh? How did you enjoy them? Tell us, we would love to know!

By Sanskriti Nagar

I'm a storyteller on a journey - to connect people with places, the past with the present, the contemporary with the traditional. I'm just stepping into the shoes of an explorer, aspiring to be a globetrotter, and someday, a novelist. Follow me through my journeys, and if something does resonate with you, or you'd like me to cover a story for you, I'd love to catch up. (PS: I love coffee!)

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