Amitav Ghosh

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Amitav Ghosh

Ghosh in 2017
Ghosh in 2017
Born (1956-07-11) 11 July 1956 (age 65)[1]
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Alma materUniversity of Delhi (B.A., M.A.)
University of Oxford (Ph.D.)
GenreHistorical fiction
Notable worksThe Shadow Lines, The Glass Palace, Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, The Hungry Tide
Notable awardsJnanpith Award
Sahitya Akademi Award
Ananda Puraskar
Dan David Prize
Padma Shri
SpouseDeborah Baker (wife)

Amitav Ghosh (born 11 July 1956)[1] is an Indian writer and the winner of the 54th Jnanpith award, India’s highest literary honor, best known for his work in English fiction. Ghosh's ambitious novels use complex narrative strategies to probe the nature of national and personal identity, particularly of the people of India and Southeast Asia.[3]

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehradun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford and his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. He earned a doctorate at in Oxford before he wrote his first novel, The Circle of Reason, which was published in 1986.[4]

Amitav Ghosh holds two Lifetime Achievement awards and four honorary doctorates. In 2007 he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India's highest honors, by the President of India. In 2010 he was a joint winner, along with Margaret Atwood of a Dan David prize, and 2011 he was awarded the Grand Prix of the Blue Metropolis festival in Montreal. He was the first English-language writer to receive the award. In 2019 Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the most important global thinkers of the preceding decade.[5]


Ghosh in 2007

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta on 11 July 1956 and was educated at the all-boys boarding school The Doon School in Dehradun. He grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. His contemporaries at Doon included author Vikram Seth and historian Ram Guha.[6] While at school, he regularly contributed fiction and poetry to The Doon School Weekly (then edited by Seth) and founded the magazine History Times along with Guha.[7][8][9] After Doon, he received degrees from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, and Delhi School of Economics.

He then won the Inlaks Foundation scholarship to complete a D. Phil. in social anthropology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, under the supervision of British social anthropologist Peter Lienhardt.[10] The thesis, undertaken in the Faculty of Anthropology and Geography, was entitled "Kinship in relation to economic and social organization in an Egyptian village community" and submitted in 1982.[11]

Ghosh's first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. In 1999, Ghosh joined the faculty at Queens College, City University of New York, as Distinguished Professor in comparative literature. He has also been a visiting professor at the English department of Harvard University since 2005. He has been a fellow at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and Centre for Development Studies in Trivandrum. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[12] In 2015 Ghosh was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow.[13]

He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2007.[14]

Ghosh returned to India to begin working on the Ibis trilogy which includes Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011), and Flood of Fire (2015).

Ghosh lives in New York with his wife, Deborah Baker, author of the Laura Riding biography In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding (1993) and a senior editor at Little, Brown and Company. They have two children, Lila and Nayan.



Ghosh is the author of The Circle of Reason (his 1986 debut novel), The Shadow Lines (1988), The Calcutta Chromosome (1995), The Glass Palace (2000), The Hungry Tide (2004), and Sea of Poppies (2008), the first volume of The Ibis trilogy, set in the 1830s, just before the Opium War, which encapsulates the colonial history of the East. Ghosh's River of Smoke (2011), is the second volume of The Ibis trilogy. The third, Flood of Fire, completing the trilogy, was published 28 May 2015 to positive reviews.[15] The Shadow Lines that won him the Sahitya Akademi Award "throws light on the phenomenon of communal violence and the way its roots have spread deeply and widely in the collective psyche of the Indian subcontinent".[16] Most of his work deals with historical settings, especially in the Indian Ocean periphery. In an interview with Mahmood Kooria, he said: "It was not intentional, but sometimes things are intentional without being intentional. Though it was never part of a planned venture and did not begin as a conscious project, I realise in hindsight that this is really what always interested me most: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the connections and the cross-connections between these regions." [17]

Ghosh's most recent book, Gun Island, published in 2019 and dealing with climate change and human migration, drew praise[18] from critics. The Guardian however, noted Ghosh's tendency to go on tangents, calling it "a shaggy dog story" that "can take a very roundabout path towards reality, but it will get there in the end."[19]


Ghosh's notable non-fiction writings are In an Antique Land (1992), Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma (1998), Countdown (1999), and The Imam and the Indian (2002, a collection of essays on themes such as fundamentalism, the history of the novel, Egyptian culture, and literature. His writings appear in newspapers and magazines in India and abroad. His most-recent non-fiction book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) addresses why modern literature has failed to address issues of climate change, and how radical transformation due to nature has become 'unthinkable'.[citation needed]

He is currently working on the book titled The Nutmeg's Curse which is said to come out by October 2021. This work will look the journey of the nutmeg from the native islands of Banda to many other parts of the world, and thereby talk about the historical influence of colonialism.[20]

Awards and recognition[edit]

The Circle of Reason won the Prix Médicis étranger, one of France's top literary awards.[21] The Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar.[22] The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 1997.[23] Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.[24] It was the co-winner of the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2009, as well as co-winner of the 2010 Dan David Prize.[25] River of Smoke was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2011. The government of India awarded him the civilian honour of Padma Shri in 2007.[26] He also received - together with Margaret Atwood - the Israeli Dan David Prize.[27]

Ghosh famously withdrew his novel The Glass Palace from consideration for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, where it was awarded the best novel in the Eurasian section, citing his objections to the term "commonwealth" and the unfairness of the English language requirement specified in the rules.[28]

Ghosh received the lifetime achievement award at Tata Literature Live, the Mumbai LitFest on 20 November 2016.[29] He was conferred the 54th Jnanpith award in December 2018 and is the first Indian writer in English to have been chosen for this honour.[30]


  • The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis (2021)


  1. ^ a b Ghosh, Amitav Archived 5 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ Gupte, Masoom (25 November 2016). "The heroic tale of great entrepreneurs is nonsense: Amitav Ghosh". The Economic Times. Archived from the original on 28 November 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Brittanica".
  4. ^ "Amitav Ghosh". Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Amitav Ghosh : Biography". Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  6. ^ Nicholas Wroe (23 May 2015). "Amitav Ghosh: 'There is now a vibrant literary world in India – it all began with Naipaul'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 May 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  7. ^ The Pioneer. "'Dosco' Amitav Ghosh celebrates his 60th Birthday". Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Of nature, cricket, literature and history". 29 October 2017.
  9. ^ Ramachandra Guha (12 September 2013). "Ramachandra Guha on Twitter: "On the 25th anniversary of Amitav Ghosh's superb The Shadow Lines, a toast to History Times, the school magazine we worked on together."". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  10. ^ "A scholarship worth going after". The Times of India. 17 January 2002. Archived from the original on 8 January 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  11. ^ Srivastava, Neelam, "Amitav Ghosh's enthographic fictions: Intertextual links between In An Antique Land and his doctoral thesis", Journal of Commonwealth Literature, 2001, Vol.36(2), pp.45-64.
  12. ^ "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  13. ^ "The Art of Change: Meet our visiting fellows". Ford Foundation. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  14. ^ "National Portal of India" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2008.[dead link]
  15. ^ Clark, Alex (5 June 2015). "Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh review – the final instalment of an extraordinary trilogy". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  16. ^ rajnishmishravns (26 January 2013). "Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines as an Indian English Novel | rajnishmishravns". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  17. ^ Mahmood Kooria (2012). "Between the Walls of Archives and Horizons of Imagination: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh". Itinerario, 36, p. 10 Archived 10 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Alam, Rumaan. "Review | With 'Gun Island,' Amitav Ghosh turns global crises into engaging fiction". Washington Post. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  19. ^ Clark, Alex (5 June 2019). "Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh review – climate and culture in crisis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  20. ^ "Amitav Ghosh's new book 'The Nutmeg's Curse' to release in October - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  21. ^ "Amitav Ghosh re-emerges with Sea of Poppies". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 24 May 2008. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008.
  22. ^ "Amitav Ghosh". Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  23. ^ "Arthur C. Clarke Award |". Retrieved 28 May 2012.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "First-timers Seeking Booker glory". BBC News. 9 September 2008. Archived from the original on 3 December 2009.
  25. ^ Laureates 2010 – 2010 Present – Literature: Rendition of the 20th Century – Amitav Ghosh Archived 18 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  27. ^ Editorial, Reuters (28 April 2010). "Amitav Ghosh joint winner of $1 million Israeli prize". Reuters.
  28. ^ Wild West at the London Book Fair| The Guardian Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "Amitav Ghosh gets life-time achievement award at Lit Fest". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  30. ^ "Author Amitav Ghosh honoured with 54h Jnanpith award". Retrieved 14 December 2018.

External links[edit]