In Conversation with Amitav GhoshBy kamla bhatt • Jul 26th, 2012
Category: Books and Authors, Diaspora, Featured, India, People
In River of Smoke author Amitav Ghosh takes us to the heart of opium trade between British India and China. He takes us to 1830s Canton, which was the main outpost for the opium trade. Opium was a major revenue generator for the British and helped offset the balance of trade as Ghosh points out in the interview. Opium was illegal to import into China, but the British found a workaround.
The New York Times describes River of Smoke as “exploring the fizzing currents of language, politics, trade and culture that swept through the vast opium network operated by the British East India Company in the 19th century.” In this book Ghosh has focussed quite a bit on “the hybridity born of cultural contact, the bastardisations of language in pidgin and port slang,” as The Guardian put it.
River of Smoke is the second volume from The Ibis Trilogy. Sea of Poppies is the first volume of the trilogy, where Ghosh takes us to the heartland of India where the poppy seeds for the opium is grown. Sea of Poppies was published in 2008.
In this wide-ranging interview Ghosh talks about how he wrote River of Smoke, his writing process and his study in 3 different cities. He also shares his fascination with evolution of language and the influence of Portuguese on Indian languages. He touches upon the common cultural bonds between India and China. One of the surprising findings of the opium trade was the role of prominent American families and there is an American character in River of Smoke.
This interview was recorded at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California.