13 June, 2021

Circle Of Mysteries

Amitav Ghosh's eerie new novel defies categorisation

Circle Of Mysteries
WRITERS often tend to outline the literary agenda of their lives in debut books. The first book, carrying the complex, prickly burden of artistic ambition, occasionally becomes a fragmentary blueprint for all that is to come. In the case of Amitav Ghosh, arguably India's finest novelist in English, this appears so far to hold true. His fourth book, The Calcutta Chromosome, ranges over classic Ghosh territory: history, science, Egypt, Bengal, the fluid interflow between rural and urban, between cultures and civilisations, the play of ideas, the circle of reason. Actually, ranges is the wrong word. Ghosh frolics with a breathtaking intensity and variety to produce a novel like none other on the Indo-Anglian shelf.

To begin with, he expands the circle of reason beyond any perimeter his admirers could have set for him. The triumph of his story is that it defies summary. But let me try. The novel opens somewhere in the not-too-distant future, where Antar, a computer-bound, Egyptian clerk in New York, inadvertently comes across the abandoned identity card of a former...

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