Millennium Post

‘I try to create a lived history’

“That never stopped me from reading,” he said recollecting his childhood days which was filled with reading books by Enid Blyton and others.

Ghosh articulated the finesse of language in telling a story while giving a preview of his new novel the third and final book of his Ibis trilogy, Flood of Fire, at Spring Fever by Penguin, a celebration of books and literature that began here on March 14, Ghosh, whose historical fictions that tend to make you “desperate for the end only to read it again,” are witness to the author’s extensive experimentation with the language.

Charting out how the language in fiction writing is distinctively different from that of a work of non-fiction, for instance his Countdown, Ghosh said, “Novel is not reflecting reality but creating reality, where language is used constitutively like clay.”

It is in the usage of the language, in its repetitions, resonances and substitutions, he said, that a new word becomes “clear from the context that it means something.”  About English author Blyton’s pot beef he said, “How can I know what pot beef is unless I tasted it but I figured out it was some sort of food, and that’s all you need to know.”

While the genre of Ghosh’s fiction writing is fairly constant and revolves around historical events, the diversity of language in his works is beyond capture.

In Hungry Tide, which is “a reflection on language and on translation,” he claimed to have tried his hand, much successfully, at experiencing metre.

Having grown up bi-lingual, Ghosh said he owed a large faction of his research to his mother tongue Bengali. The metre called the payar chhanda too, he said, came from the 16th century Bengali poet Kashiram Das’ poetic rendition of the Mahabharata.

As the facts blend effortlessly with the fiction to tell the enchanting tale of Fokir and Piyali in Ghosh’s book Hungry Tide, the language alternates between being poetic and scientific.

Flood of Fire, being the third in the Ibis series, is the culmination of the journey that began in Calcutta, spanning over a significant part of Asia. For the author’s love of language, the book is replete with Hobson Jobson, with characters speaking Bhojpuri, Bengali, Chinese and French.

The author admitted to have derived from this diversity “joy and sheer exuberance.” “It is really fun,” he said.

Ghosh conspicuously romances the liberation that the art of writing offers, and perhaps that is why he bluntly dismissed the idea of writing about non-fictional characters from history.

“It ties your hands too much,” he said. Asserting that bringing the factual aspect of history to the fore is the job of a historian, he expressed his sole interest in bringing out “the experiential aspect of history,” instead.

“I try to create a lived history. I try to inhabit it,” he said. Ghosh’s Flood of Fire is expected to reach the stands by early June this year. The 58-year-old has written 10 highly acclaimed works of fiction and non-fiction, which include the Booker-nominated work The Sea of Poppies, The Glass Palace and The Shadow Lines, which won him a Sahitya Akademi award.
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