Ghosh’s recipe

“It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because kathakali discovered long ago secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.”

– Arundhati Roy, in The God of Small of Things

I am reminded of her whenever I read Amitav Ghosh’s fictions. Only two of them are on my shelf so far, the Glass Palace and The Hungry Tide. Both the books made me nostalgic and I had to pick Roy’s masterpiece again. Ofcourse, her story was like one of the Great Stories she describes above. I have found Ghosh to be closest to be achieving that feat. These books represent the most poetic prose I have ever read. The words, lines, pages just melt into mind like a soft fresh mousse. After the savory is gone from the plate, you cherish the after-taste for a long while. I guess among the three physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sex) I have one more to add – to read such books like Ghosh’s n Roy’s stories.

Unlike Roy, Ghosh’s stories are visibly informative. You can visualize the author must have been to these many places, talked to so-n-so people, collected material from plenty of sites before he sew all that up into his story. After the Glass Palace, I found myself wikipeding and googling on history of Myanmar and it’s connection to British India. On the one hand, so much information interrupts the flow of the story, it places the book into the category of well-written book and doesn’t let it remain the kind which you might have just heard in the village you happened to be in for say 2 months, the kind Roy writes. On the other hand, one marvels on Ghosh’s genius on achieving such an imaginative piece with so much factual information interwoven to it. One wonders, whether he first thought of a story, or whether he first chose the (real) incident or whether it all happened together.

Now, I have to give another try to Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. I have read a third of it and am waiting to forget what I have read so far, to be able to make a fresh new start.


4 thoughts on “Ghosh’s recipe

  1. I have read The Hungry Tide. Its very well written and extremely engaging. I find the description of the Sunderbans quite intriguing; hope I will visit them some day and get to see a Royal Bengal Tiger!

    I have also read The Inheritance of Loss: okayish!! I found the story too boring with an abrupt or as if there was no end (may be because we are used to conclusive endings in Bollywood movies), but the writing was of extremely high quality.

    If I were asked to re-read one of these two, I will go for the latter one – for the quality of writing. I find this perception of mine quite surprising too:)

    BTW, nice thoughts on Ghosh’s writing. Will eagerly wait for more of these.


  2. Yesterday night, I had a dream that I was almost saved from being gulped by a crocodile and later on land a tigress jumped on me and ate me. This is the affect of Ghosh on me!
    But yes, I agree that I would also not read Ghosh stories again. AS I said his are not great stories, but in my shelf, closest to being those.


  3. If you liked those two, do pick up The Shadow Lines. It’s Ghosh’s best work IMO. I’ve read most of his fiction, and am a huge fan. And I still think he has yet to surpass The Shadow Lines in the sheer brilliance of prose. It’s intricately woven.

    You’ve got a nice blog here.



  4. @asuph

    thanks! :) I would pick up Shadow Lines next. I read Desai’s Inheritance of Loss recently and realized I have a thing for Bongs. Their style is just too good.. :)


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