Amitav Ghosh’s masterpiece the Ibis trilogy isn’t just a remarkable feat of masterful story telling, it is also a subversive act of empathy that views history from the perspective of those who had to endure the rapacious greed of colonial masters
8/31/2015 3:51:01 PM
|written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla & Nithya Subramanian|
It is the morning after the spectacular South-east Asian launch of Amitav Ghosh’s Flood Of Fire and the two-time Booker Prize nominee is relaxed and engaged in friendly banter.
His old friend and India’s foremost social commentator Shobhaa De who had flown in to moderate at the previous evening’s India Se-SWF Literary Salon is at her entertaining best despite a late night.
Looking more glamorous than the Bollywood celebrities she often writes about, the 67-year-old doyen of Indian columnists regales him and the interviewers with amusing anecdotes on media personalities while bemoaning how Goa (where both have their homes) was fast becoming a ‘klony’ of Delhi.
Ghosh, whose Ibis trilogy is set with the background of the Opium War of 1839-1843, was in Singapore to speak at the eight-year old literary salon for South Asian writers established by Singapore-based India Se Media. Impressed by the turn out, he said Singapore, where much of the book’s action is set, was the most fitting place for the launch for his final and third book in the trilogy – Flood Of Fire.
Although Sea Of Poppies and River Of Smoke are fabulous examples of story telling, Flood Of Fire on many counts is the best of the three volumes. It binds all the colorful threads to the plot, seamlessly weaving them into the existing story and tying them off in a most satisfactory manner.
Beyond the highly dramatic and evocative descriptions of the key land and sea battles of the First Opium War, the novel presents a deeply insightful account of the influence of the opium lobby on British foreign policy and the intellectual contortions of the colonials involved in the diabolical trade to claim moral righteousness for it. The book is a compelling conclusion to an epic and sweeping story, nothing short of a linguistic masterpiece of story-telling genius.
Speaking of words, Ghosh’s language flows with elegance through an astonishing variety of registers from the nautical language of the times to Hinglish and Chinglish, energising his narrative. Linguistic agility and meticulous research are among the qualities that make Ghosh one the world’s finest fiction writers, “worthy of a Nobel Prize,” as Shobhaa De declared at the launch.