Of love, colonialism and chapatis

The reading from two sessions ago was 2 chapters from Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace.

Glass Palace book coverI have a confession to make: I tried to read this book nearly a decade ago. I say ‘tried’ because although I was well into it, I never managed to finish it; and I gave up before I’d reached the two chapters that were selected to be shared during the session. I’ve since experienced some regret at not completing my reading of it.

At times the book (or rather, the selected chapters) felt like a meditation. That was what I felt from the slow, purposeful, focused way of building up to a certain goal, but never quite making it explicit or obvious that there was a specific aim or climax. And yet there was. I liked the author’s deliberate pacing and writing style; it was (is) almost dreamlike without being too surreal or abstract.

This was effective in bringing out the pathos of the characters, their thoughts, mixed emotions, and compromises they make in life and love. All this is underpinned by very thorough historical research, which informs the settings and in a very real way, the paths the characters take. Whether in Burma, India or Malaya, the background of colonialism is always present (even though there is nary a British person in sight), as well as rebellion, real or imagined. The latter can be expressed through the account of sending the locals sending large numbers of chapatis to police stations all over the British India in the 19th century – which was usually a sign of impending unrest, or as is more often the case, a mundane way of unsettling the colonisers. Or simply just an injunction to eat when hard times are known to be coming (or some other such interpretation).

Ghosh is an excellent writer…it’s a pity I don’t manage to come across more writers like him. I highly recommend reading his work.

For more:

Amitav Ghosh

The Glass Palace

‘There’ll Always Be an England in India’ (review by Pankanj Mishra)

Posted by rodsjournal.

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