Author Amitav Ghosh needs no introduction. The acclaimed writer, on a nationwide tour to unveil his masterfully written ‘River of Smoke’ the second of the Ibis trilogy- the first being the bestselling ‘Sea of Poppies’- dropped by PageTurners on Tuesday evening, enchanting and thrilling the audience with his presence.
A packed house, seated well in time as they anticipated his arrival, got all that they asked for as Amitav chatted with the audience and PageTurners MD, Abishek Laxminarayan, who mediated the event. He also answered questions from the audience, speaking about Amitav the writer, the background of his latest release, and the trilogy itself- which draws its name from the storm-tossed ship making a journey from Calcutta to Canton in China, with a load of convicts and indentured laborers, in the nineteenth century.
The book- like the first of the trilogy- is set in the nineteenth century against the backdrop of the opium wars with much of the action taking place in Canton, a fascinating city elevated to almost being a character in the book. Beginning with a reading of the book, Amitav went on to discuss it and answer several poignant questions.
Answering a question on the vivid descriptions that mark his writing, Amitav graciously attributed all the effort to his readers, saying that they did much of the work by lending their imaginations to his writing. On which came first, the characters or the story, he said it was certainly the characters, who lead the story once they came to life in writing and took on shades of their own.
Discussing the inspiration behind basing his novels on the opium wars, Amitav said that it was the one area of history that had not been explored in terms of personal accounts- something he has tried to achieve through the characters in both the books in this trilogy. Although he has not yet made a decision, and holds no strong views on the translation of his books into movies, he said that he was not closed to the idea, as he sees the two as separate art forms- both open to interpretation.
Speaking of India and China, Amitav mentioned that both countries hold their own, and India should embrace originality- while both must accept themselves and each other for what they are. He then obligingly signed personal copies of the book for the thrilled audience. The session was as mesmerizing and transporting as the book is, and we suggest you get your own copy of this masterpiece as soon as you can!
*pictures courtesy Ajay Menon