Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria and is the author of The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and the first two volumes of The Ibis Trilogy: Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke.
The Circle of Reason was awarded France's Prix Médicis in 1990, and The Shadow Lines won two prestigious Indian prizes the same year, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke award for 1997, and The Glass Palace won the International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt book fair in 2001. In January 2005 The Hungry Tide was awarded the Crossword Book Prize, a major Indian award. His novel, Sea of Poppies (2008) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2008 and was awarded the Crossword Book Prize and the India Plaza Golden Quill Award.
Ghosh's work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and he has served on the Jury of the Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) and the Venice Film Festival (2001). Ghosh's essays have been published in The New Yorker, The New Republic and The New York Times. His essays have been published by Penguin India (The Imam and the Indian) and Houghton Mifflin USA (Incendiary Circumstances). He has taught in many universities in India and the USA, including Delhi University, Columbia, Queens College, and Harvard. In January 2007 he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India's highest honours, by the President of India. In 2010, Ghosh was awarded honorary doctorates by Queens College, New York, and the Sorbonne, Paris. Along with Margaret Atwood, he was also a joint winner of a Dan David Award for 2010. In 2011 he was awarded the International Grand Prix of the Blue Metropolis Festival in Montreal.
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In two separate interviews, Amitav Ghosh discusses Sea of Poppies and The Glass Palace.
Amitav Ghosh discusses Sea of Poppies
How long did it take you to write Sea of
About four years.
How much research did you have to undertake for details such as nautical references and the language used?
I love nineteenth-century nautical fiction so many of the details were just buried in my head. As for the rest, it was so deeply pleasurable, I don't know whether I should even call it research. I traveled to Mauritius, to look at the National Archives and some other libraries; I spent some time in Greenwich, England, looking at the magnificent collection of the National Maritime Museum. But the best part of all was learning to sailthat was an experience that surpassed everything I had imagined.
How much of a challenge was it to write the language used by the lascars?
A ship manned by lascars must have been a kind of floating babel. Sailors from all around the Indian Ocean went by the name 'lascar'East Africans, South Asians, Filipinos, Chinese, Malays. When you look at one of those old crew lists, you can't help wondering ...
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