Thursday, September 28, 2006

Amitav Ghosh interview

Amitav Ghosh, author of The Hungry Tide and other books, recently sat for an interview with Subash Jeyan for the Hindu.

They shared some interesting thoughts on, among other things, what it means to be a writer in a globalizing world where the boundaries of nation states are shifting, but what most captured my interest was this passage:

[Jeyan:] You have said that you prefer fiction because it is a kind of meta form. Could you elaborate on that because the novel particularly is perceived to be a form which privileges very particular ways of seeing the world and the self...

[Ghosh:] I think it became very bourgeois from the late 19th century onwards. But, on the other hand, one of my great hero as a writer is Hermann Melville and if you read Moby Dick, it is a novel about men at work. It is anything but a bourgeois book. It is completely subversive of any kind of bourgeois order. I just reread it and I think it is a magnificent work. It so powerfully identifies this kind of madness in American life. In Moby Dick, at every moment revolt is simmering and you have the figure of this tyrannical, obsessed captain, who is essentially the capitalist who is out to destroy nature. It's absolutely a metaphor for contemporary America in so many ways. I think he perceived the nature of his civilisation in a way that very few people have.

In some sense you could say the written language itself is bourgeois so anyone who deals with the written language in that form too is necessarily bourgeois but apart from that, his engagements, his explorations, his themes are anything but that. So I would say that the foundational forms of fiction are not necessarily bourgeois by any means.

Similarly, another great hero of mine is Balzac and again you have exactly the same kind of engagement — with the working class, the prostitutes...and similarly with the capitalists, the artists, the sculptors. You see this is exactly what I love about the novel. It allows you that range, those different forms of exploration.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Ray Taras reviewed Ghosh's The Hungry Tide last month here on the blog.

--Marshal Zeringue