Synopses & Reviews
"An uncannily honest writer." —New York Times Book Review
The novelist and journalist Amitav Ghosh has offered extraordinary firsthand accounts of pivotal world events over the past twenty years. He is an essential voice in forums like The Nation, the New York Times, the New Republic, Granta, and The New Yorker, Incendiary Circumstances brings together the finest of these pieces for the first time—including many never before published in the States -- in a compelling chronicle of the turmoil of our times. Incendiary Circumstances begins with Ghoshs arrival in the Andaman and Nicobar islands just days after the devastation of the 2005 tsunami. We then travel back to September 11, 2001, as Ghosh retrieves his young daughter from school, sick with the knowledge that she must witness the kind of firestorm that has been in the background of his everyday life since childhood. With a prescience born of experience, Ghosh warned decades ago of the dangerous rise of religious extremism. In his travels he has stood on an icy mountaintop on the contested border between India and Pakistan, interviewed Pol Pots sister-in-law in Cambodia, shared the elation of Egyptians when Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize, and stood with his threatened Sikh neighbors through the riots following Indira Gandhi's assassination. With intelligence and authentic sympathy, he "illuminates the human drama behind the headlines" (Publishers Weekly). Incendiary Circumstances is unparalleled testimony of an era defined by the ravages of politics and nature.
Amitav Ghosh is acclaimed for his political journalism and his travel writing. The New York Times Book Review called his travelogue, In An Antique Land, "remarkable . . . rivals anything by the masters of social realism in modern Egyptian literature." He is also the best-selling author of four novels, including The Hungry Tide and The Glass Palace, which has been published in eighteen foreign editions. Ghosh has won France's prestigious Prix Medici Etranger, India's Sahitya Akademi Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Educated in South Asia, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom, Ghosh holds a doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford. He divides his time between Harvard University, where he is a visiting professor, and his homes in Kolkata, India, and Brooklyn, New York.
Advance Praise for Incendiary Circumstances
"This absorbing collection of essays by the novelist, journalist, and travel writer Ghosh . . . covers some two decades of catastrophe and upheaval, from sectarian violence in his native India during the 1980s through the September 11 attacks . . . to the recent Indian Ocean tsunami. With an eye for evocative detail, he illuminates the human dramas behind the headlines: the plight of tsunami refugees trying to rebuild their lives and finances after every bank record and piece of ID is lost to the waves; the courage of ordinary Indians protecting their Sikh neighbors from rampaging Hindu mobs . . . He is equally engaging when he turns from current affairs to literary essays on, say, the international culture of novel reading or the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali. Written in luminous prose with unusual understanding . . . an insightful look at a chaotic world." -- Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Praise for Amitav Ghosh
"Ghosh is adept at delineating the complicated crosscurrents of emerging national independence movements. He is even more impressive at portraying the different ways in which individuals react to the turmoil, hardship, and disorientation wrought by war.” - Wall Street Journal
"A wonderful hybrid of travel writing, reporting, historical analysis, and memoir - in other words, the kind of piece [Ghosh] writes better than almost anyone else.” - Washington Times
"This absorbing collection of essays by novelist, journalist and travel writer Ghosh (The Hungry Tide) covers some two decades of catastrophe and upheaval, from sectarian violence in his native India during the 1980s through the September 11 attacks (which he watched from his home in Brooklyn) to the recent Indian Ocean tsunami. With an eye for evocative detail, he illuminates the human dramas behind the headlines: the plight of tsunami refugees trying to rebuild their lives and finances after every bank record and piece of ID is lost to the waves; the courage of ordinary Indians protecting their Sikh neighbors from rampaging Hindu mobs. Ghosh also includes trenchant essays about the ideologies that fuel the developing world's turbulent politics, arguing in one, for example, that religious fundamentalism is 'not a repudiation of but a means of laying claim to the modern world.' He is equally engaging when he turns from current affairs to literary essays on, say, the international culture of novel reading or Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali. The volume also includes a number of travel pieces, among them a sprightly look at America's Four Corners tourist trap. Written in luminous prose with unusual understanding, these essays offer an insightful look at a chaotic world." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Incendiary Circumstances stands as a compelling chronicle of the turmoil of our times -- environmental, political, and cultural. In these seventeen absorbing pieces, Amitav Ghosh delivers extraordinary firsthand accounts of pivotal world events. He visits the Andaman and Nicobar Islands just days after the devastating 2005 tsunami, experiences the chaos in New York City on September 11, travels to an icy mountaintop on the contested border between India and Pakistan, interviews Pol Pots sister-in-law in Cambodia, shares the elation of Egyptians when Naguib Mahfouz wins the Nobel Prize, and reports on the riots following Indira Gandhi's assassination. Taken together, Ghosh's essays offer a clear view of our turbulent world and serve as a powerful call to action.
About the Author
One of the most widely known Indians writing in English today, Ghosh's books include "The Circle of Reason," "The Shadow Lines," "In An Antique Land," "Dancing in Cambodia," "The Calcutta Chromosome," and "The Glass Palace."Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied at St. Stephen's College, Delhi; St. Edmund Hall, Oxford; and the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria. He worked for the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi and he earned his doctorate in Oxford before he wrote his first novel."The Circle of Reason" won the Prix Medici Estranger, one of France's top literary awards, and "The Shadow Lines" won the Sahitya Akademi Award, India's most prestigious literary prize."The Calcutta Chromosome" won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 1997 and "The Glass Palace" won the Grand Prize for Fiction at the Frankfurt International e-Book Awards in 2001. He was the winner of the 1999 Pushcart Prize, a leading literary award, for an essay that was published in the Kenyon Review.In 1999, Ghosh joined the faculty at Queens College in the City University of New York as Distinguished Professor in the Dept. of Comparative Literature. He lives with his wife, Deborah Baker (who is a senior editor at Little Brown &Co.), and their children, in Brooklyn, USA.
Table of Contents
THE TOWN BY THE SEA 1
IMPERIAL TEMPTATIONS 26
SEPTEMBER 11 32
THE GREATEST SORROW Times of Joy Recalled in Wretchedness 36
THE GHAT OF THE ONLY WORLD” Agha Shahid Ali in Brooklyn 56
THE MARCH OF THE NOVEL THROUGH HISTORY The Testimony of My Grandfathers Bookcase 103
THE FUNDAMENTALIST CHALLENGE 120
PETROFICTION The Oil Encounter and the Novel 138
AT LARGE IN BURMA 152
THE GHOSTS OF MRS. GANDHI 187
AN EGYPTIAN IN BAGHDAD 204
DANCING IN CAMBODIA 225
THE HUMAN COMEDY IN CAIRO 264
TIBETAN DINNER 276
FOUR CORNERS 281
THE IMAM AND THE INDIAN 287