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Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh

'From Bombay to Canton:
Traveling the Opium Route to 19th Century China'
Thursday, April 10, 2014 7:00 pm

Followed by Q&A with Chitra Divakaruni

Based on his research for 'The Ibis Trilogy'

Guangzhou (also known as Canton) is one of the world’s great cosmopolitan entrepots. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was through this city and its environs that opium was funneled into China by British, American and Indian merchants. This trade was to have an enormous impact, not just on China but the whole world. Its influence on India was especially significant, for the subcontinent was the world's leading opium-producing region under the British Raj. One of India’s most important novelists, Amitav Ghosh, explores Guangzhou as an Indian trader might have seen it in the 19th century, and as this amazing cultural crossroads is portrayed in his "Ibis Trilogy."  The first two novels of this trilogy, Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke, have been published, and Mr. Ghosh is working on the third.

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Amitav Ghosh: Biography and Work

The Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta on July 11, 1956, and grew up in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India. He attended the University of Delhi and Oxford University, where he was awarded a doctoral degree in social anthropology. He has conducted fieldwork in Egypt and Cambodia, and has extensive experience working for newspapers and university institutes, including the University of New Delhi, the Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, India, and the Center for Development Studies in Trivandrum, India. He has been a Comparative Literature faculty member at Queens College, City University of New York, and also a visiting professor at Harvard University. In 2007, the government of India awarded him the Padma Shri, one of India's highest honors. He resides in New York with his wife and two children.

Mr. Ghosh is the author of many works of fiction: The Circle of Reason, >The Shadow Lines, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, Sea of Poppies, and the River of Smoke, and his non-fiction works include In an Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia and At Large in Burma, Countdown, and The Imam and the Indian. He is the author of essays that have been published in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The New York Times, among others. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages.


  • Circle of Reason: France's Prix Medicis (1990)
  • The Shadow Lines: The Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Pusaskar
  • The Calcutta Chromosome: Arthur C. Clarke Award (1997).
  • The Glass Palace: International e-Book Award at the Frankfurt Book Fair (2001)
  • The Hungry Tide: Crossword Book Prize (2005)
  • Sea of Poppies: Crossword Book Prize and the India Plaza Golden Quill Award (2008)