Amitav Ghosh

Last updated

Amitav Ghosh
Amitav Ghosh by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Ghosh in 2017
Born (1956-07-11) 11 July 1956 (age 63) [1]
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
NationalityIndian [2]
Alma mater The Doon School
St. Stephen's College, Delhi, Delhi University
St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford
GenreHistorical fiction
Notable works The Glass Palace , Sea of Poppies , River of Smoke , Hungry Tide
Notable awards Jnanpith Award, Sahitya Akademi Award, Ananda Puraskar, Dan David Prize, Padma Shri
Spouse Deborah Baker (wife)

Amitav Ghosh (born 11 July 1956) [1] is an Indian writer and the winner of the 54th Jnanpith award, best known for his work in English fiction.



Ghosh in 2007 Amitav Ghosh by David Shankbone.jpg
Ghosh in 2007

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta on 11 July 1956 to a Bengali Hindu family and was educated at the all-boys boarding school The Doon School in Dehradun. His contemporaries at Doon included author Vikram Seth and historian Ram Guha. [3] 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. [4] [5] [6] 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 Peter Lienhardt. [7] His first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi.

Kolkata Capital city of West Bengal, India

Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River approximately 80 kilometres (50 mi) west of the border with Bangladesh, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India's oldest operating port and its sole major riverine port. The city is widely regarded as the "cultural capital" of India, and is also nicknamed the "City of Joy". According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the seventh most populous city; the city had a population of 4.5 million, while the suburb population brought the total to 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. Recent estimates of Kolkata Metropolitan Area's economy have ranged from $60 to $150 billion making it third most-productive metropolitan area in India, after Mumbai and Delhi.

The Doon School boarding school at Dehradun

The Doon School is a boys-only independent boarding school in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India. It was founded in 1935 by Satish Ranjan Das, a Kolkata lawyer, who prevised a school modelled on the British public school, but conscious of Indian ambitions and desires. The school's first headmaster was an Englishman, Arthur E. Foot, who had spent nine years as a science master at Eton College, England before coming to Doon, and returned to England right after India's independence. The current headmaster is Matthew Raggett, who succeeded Peter McLaughlin in 2016, and is the fourth British headmaster in Doon's history. He is a member of Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, UK.

Vikram Seth Indian novelist and poet

Vikram Seth, is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards such as Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award. Seth's collections of poetry such as Mappings and Beastly Tales are notable contributions to the Indian English language poetry canon.

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. He has been a fellow at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and Centre for Development Studies in Trivandrum. 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. Ghosh subsequently returned to India began working on the Ibis trilogy which includes Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011), and Flood of Fire (2015).

Deborah Baker American biographer

Deborah Baker is a biographer and essayist.

Laura Riding Jackson was an American poet, critic, novelist, essayist and short story writer.

Little, Brown and Company publisher

Little, Brown and Company is an American publisher founded in 1837 by Charles Coffin Little and his partner, James Brown, and for close to two centuries has published fiction and nonfiction by American authors. Early lists featured Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson's poetry, and Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. As of 2016, Little, Brown & Company is a division of the Hachette Book Group.

He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2007. [8] In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. [9] In 2015 Ghosh was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow.

Padma Shri Fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India

Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan. It is awarded by the Government of India, every year on India's Republic Day.

Government of India Legislative, executive and judiciary powers of India

The Government of India, often abbreviated as GoI, is the union government created by the constitution of India as the legislative, executive and judicial authority of the union of 29 states and seven union territories of a constitutionally democratic republic. It is located in New Delhi, the capital of India.

Royal Society of Literature senior literary organisation in Britain

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL) is a learned society founded in 1820, by King George IV, to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The society is a cultural tenant at London's Somerset House.



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. [10] 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". [11] 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." [12]

<i>The Circle of Reason</i> (novel) book by Amitav Ghosh

The Circle of Reason is the first novel by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. It was published in 1986.

Debut novel first published by an author

A debut novel is the first novel a novelist publishes. Debut novels are often the author's first opportunity to make an impact on the publishing industry, and thus the success or failure of a debut novel can affect the ability of the author to publish in the future. First-time novelists without a previous published reputation, such as publication in nonfiction, magazines, or literary journals, typically struggle to find a publisher.

<i>The Shadow Lines</i> book by Amitav Ghosh

The Shadow Lines (1988) is a Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. It is a book that captures perspective of time and events, of lines that bring people together and hold them apart; lines that are clearly visible from one perspective and nonexistent from another; lines that exist in the memory of one, and therefore in another's imagination. A narrative built out of an intricate, constantly crisscrossing web of memories of many people, it never pretends to tell a story. Instead, it invites the reader to invent one, out of the memories of those involved, memories that hold mirrors of differing shades to the same experience.


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 large collection of essays on different themes such as fundamentalism, 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'.

<i>In an Antique Land</i> book by Amitav Ghosh

In An Antique Land is an ethnography written in narrative form by the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh.

<i>Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma</i> book by Amitav Ghosh

Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma is a collection of essays by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. It was published in 1998.

<i>The Imam and the Indian</i> book by Amitav Ghosh

The Imam and the Indian is a collection of essays by the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. It was published in 2002.

Awards and recognition

The Circle of Reason won the Prix Médicis étranger, one of France's top literary awards. [13] The Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. [14] The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 1997. [15] Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize. [16] It was the co-winner of the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2009, as well as co-winner of the 2010 Dan David Prize. [17] 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. [18] He also received - together with Margaret Atwood - the Israeli Dan David Prize. [19]

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. [20]

Ghosh received the lifetime achievement award at Tata Literature Live, the Mumbai LitFest on November 20, 2016. [21] 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. [22]


Related Research Articles

Shekhar Kapur Indian film director

Shekhar Kapur is an Indian film director, actor, and producer, known for his works in Hindi cinema and international cinema. Part of the Anand family, Kapur became known in Bollywood with his recurring role in the TV series Khandan in the mid-1980s and his directorial debut in the cult Bollywood film Masoom in 1983, which won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie for that year, before gaining widespread success with the science fiction film Mr. India (1987).

Kuvempu Kannada novelist, poet, playwright, critic, and thinker

Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa, popularly known by his pen name Kuvempu, was an Indian novelist, poet, playwright, critic and thinker. He is widely regarded as the greatest Kannada poet of the 20th century. He is the first among Kannada writers to be by decorated with the Jnanpith Award.

The Jnanpith Award is an Indian literary award presented annually by the Bharatiya Jnanpith to an author for their "outstanding contribution towards literature". Instituted in 1961, the award is bestowed only on Indian writers writing in Indian languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and English, with no posthumous conferral.

Shankha Ghosh Indian poet

Shankha Ghosh is a Bengali Indian poet and critic. Ghosh got his undergraduate degree in Arts in Bengali language from the Presidency College, Kolkata in 1951 and subsequently his master's degree from the University of Calcutta in the year 1954.

Indian English literature (IEL) is the body of work by writers in India who write in the English language and whose native or co-native language could be one of the numerous languages of India. Its early history began with the works of Michael Madhusudan Dutt followed by R. K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao who contributed to Indian fiction in the 1930s. It is also associated with the works of members of the Indian diaspora who are of Indian descent.

Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay Indian writer

Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay was one of the leading Bengali novelists. He wrote 65 novels, 53-story-books, 12 plays, 4 essay-books, 4 autobiographies, 2 travel stories and composed several songs. He directed one Bengali feature film (Amrapali) in 1959. He was awarded Rabindra Puraskar, Sahitya Akademi Award, Jnanpith Award, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.

Ramachandra Guha historian and writer from India

Ramachandra Guha is an Indian historian and writer whose research interests include environmental, social, political, contemporary and cricket history. He is also a columnist for The Telegraph and Hindustan Times. A regular contributor to various academic journals, Guha has also written for The Caravan and Outlook magazines. For the year 2011–12, he held a visiting position at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs. His latest book is Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World (2018), the second part of his two-volume biography of M. K. Gandhi. It is a follow-up to the acclaimed Gandhi Before India (2013). His large body of work, covering a wide range of fields and yielding a number of rational insights, has made him a significant figure in Indian historical studies, and Guha is valued as one of the major historians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Firaq Gorakhpuri Urdu author

Raghupati Sahay, better known under his pen name Firaq Gorakhpuri, was a writer, critic, and, according to one commentator, one of the most noted contemporary Urdu poets from India. He established himself among peers including Muhammad Iqbal, Yagana Changezi, Jigar Moradabadi and Josh Malihabadi.

O. N. V. Kurup Indian writer

Ottaplakkal Neelakandan Velu Kurup, popularly known as O. N. V. Kurup or simply and endearingly O. N. V., was a Malayalam poet and lyricist from Kerala, India, who won the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary award in India for the year 2007. He received the awards Padma Shri in 1998 and Padma Vibhushan in 2011, the fourth and second highest civilian honours from the Government of India. In 2007 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by University of Kerala, Trivandrum. O. N. V. was known for his leftist leaning. He was a leader of All India Students Federation (AISF). He died on 13 February 2016 at KIMS hospital in Thiruvananthapuram due to age-related illnesses, aged 84.

<i>The Glass Palace</i> novel by Amitav Ghosh

The Glass Palace is a 2000 historical novel by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh. The novel is set in Burma, Bengal, India, and Malaya, spans a century from the British invasion of Burma and the consequent fall of the Konbaung Dynasty in Mandalay, through the Second World War to late 20th century. Through the stories of a small number of privileged families, it illuminates the struggles that have shaped Burma, India and Malaya into the places they are today. It explores the various facets of the colonial period, including the economic fall of Burma, the rise of timber and rubber plantations, the moral dilemmas faced by Indians serving the British army, and the devastating effects of World War II. Focusing mainly on the early 20th Century, it explores a broad range of issues ranging from the changing economic landscape of Burma and India, to pertinent questions about what constitutes a nation and how these change as society is swept along by the tide of modernity.

Sitakant Mahapatra Indian writer from Odisha

Sitakant Mahapatra is an eminent Indian poet and literary critic in Odia as well as English. He was in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) since 1961 until retiring in 1995, and has held ex officio posts such as the Chairman of National Book Trust, New Delhi since then.

<i>Sea of Poppies</i> Indian English novel

Sea of Poppies (2008) is a novel by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008. It is the first volume of the Ibis trilogy. In the words of Rajnish Mishra, "the Ibis trilogy is Ghosh's most vehement indictment of the scourge of imperialism and colonialism". The second volume is River of Smoke.

The Crossword Book Award is an Indian book award hosted by Crossword Bookstores and their sponsors. The Award was instituted in 1998 by Indian book retailer Crossword with the intention of competing with The Booker Prize, Commonwealth Writers' Prize or The Pulitzer Prize.

<i>River of Smoke</i> Indian English novel

River of Smoke (2011) is a novel by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh. It is the second volume of the Ibis trilogy.

Christopher J. Miller schoolmaster

Christopher J. Miller was an English academic, professor and scholar. He served as the third English headmaster of The Doon School, India from 1966 till 1970 and the last one before the appointment of Matthew Raggett in 2016. He had an MA from University of Cambridge. During his tenure at Doon, his protégé included: Vikram Seth, Karan Thapar, Amitav Ghosh, Ramchandra Guha.

The Ibis trilogy is a work of historical fiction by Amitav Ghosh. The story is set in the first half of the 19th century. It deals with the trade of opium between India and China run by the East India Company and the trafficking of coolies to Mauritius. It comprises Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011), and Flood of Fire (2015).

<i>Flood of Fire</i> book by Amitav Ghosh

Flood of Fire is a 2015 novel by Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh. Following the Sea of Poppies (2008) and River of Smoke (2011), the novel is the final installment of the Ibis trilogy, which concerns the 19th-century opium trade between India and China. The book was first published by the English publisher John Murray, and later by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the United States. The novel was shortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize and received the Crossword Book Jury Award in Fiction in 2015.

Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) is a social science and humanities research and teaching institute in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.


  1. 1 2 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. 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.
  4. The Pioneer. "'Dosco' Amitav Ghosh celebrates his 60th Birthday". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  5. "Of nature, cricket, literature and history". 29 October 2017.
  6. Ramachandra GuhaVerified account (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.
  7. "A scholarship worth going after". The Times of India. 17 January 2002. Archived from the original on 8 January 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  8. (PDF) . Retrieved 17 October 2008.Missing or empty |title= (help)[ dead link ]
  9. "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 8 August 2010.
  10. 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.
  11. by rajnishmishravns (26 January 2013). "Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines as an Indian English Novel | rajnishmishravns". Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  12. 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
  13. "Amitav Ghosh re-emerges with Sea of Poppies". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 24 May 2008. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008.
  14. "Amitav Ghosh". Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  15. "Arthur C. Clarke Award |". Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  16. "First-timers Seeking Booker glory". BBC News. 9 September 2008. Archived from the original on 3 December 2009.
  17. Laureates 2010 – 2010 Present – Literature: Rendition of the 20th Century – Amitav Ghosh Archived 18 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  18. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  19. Editorial, Reuters (28 April 2010). "Amitav Ghosh joint winner of $1 million Israeli prize". Reuters.
  20. Wild West at the London Book Fair| The Guardian Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  21. "Amitav Ghosh gets life-time achievement award at Lit Fest". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  22. "Author Amitav Ghosh honoured with 54h Jnanpith award" . Retrieved 14 December 2018.