Writer and anthropologist Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956 and spent his childhood in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and northern India. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Egypt, and has taught in various Indian and American universities. He is the author of three books: The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines and In An Antique Land and has written for The New Yorker, Granta, The New Republic and The New York Times. Mr. Ghosh and his wife, Deborah Baker, live in New York with their two children.
Antar, the Egyptian-American hero of this richly plotted literary thriller, is a peon in a huge corporation in near-future New York. His job is to monitor his powerful computer as it sorts through the inventory of a worldwide archive of mundane objects; at the same time, the machine monitors him to make sure he devotes his full attention to its mindless, mysterious task. The terminal stalls when it comes across a damaged ID card, which on further investigation turns out to have belonged to Murugan, an acquaintance of Antar's who disappeared years ago in Calcutta. As the novel moves into the past, the reader learns that Murugan went to India to research a "secret history" behind the real-life, turn-of-the-century discovery of malaria's mode of transmission through mosquitoes. The path that led 1902 Nobel laureate Ronald Ross to his discovery was indirect, and Murugan is nearly positive that the English scientist was merely a patsy, a pawn in someone else's grand plan. If this sounds complicated, it is. Ghosh's novel keeps doubling back on itself, shifting from future to past, New York to Calcutta. Though the mystery at the heart of the book is sometimes hard to fathom, that hardly matters. The evocations of place and character are so eloquent that the reader is able to forgive (continually, necessarily) all nagging, basic confusions about the plot. Murugan is the real gem here; as he explains his theories about Ross to Antar, it's hard to determine whether he's crazy or brilliant or both. Like Pynchon, Ghosh (The Circle of Reason; The Shadow Lines) creates a world in which conspiracies, big conspiracies, lurk everywhere‘and the people who stagger into the complex plot known as History are inevitably swallowed whole. Author tour. (Sept.)
Ghosh's latest novel, after the accaimed The Shadow Lines (LJ 5/1/89), is part medical thriller, part science fiction, and part literary conspiracy novel, but entirely readable.
"A novelist of dazzling ingenuity, Ghosh presents an engrossing tale that is at once a work of science fiction, a medical mystery, and a fascinating history of malaria research.... The plot unfolds like the involution of a hypertext, and the novel's clever subtext, which pits India's age-old wisdom and faith against Western science and England's colonial arrogance, is scintillating." --"San Francisco Chronicle"Ghosh unseams both chronology and distance with a Borgesian flair."--"The New Yorker"A rollicking ride between the past and the future, real and imagined history, science and counterscience."--"Los Angeles Times