In an Antique Land by Amitav GhoshOnce upon a time an Indian writer named Amitav Ghosh set out to find an Indian slave, name unknown, who some seven hundred years before had traveled to the Middle East. The journey took him to a small village in Egypt, where medieval customs coexist with twentieth-century desires and discontents. But even as Ghosh sought to re-create the life of his Indian predecessor, he found himself immersed in those of his modern Egyptian neighbors.
Combining shrewd observations with painstaking historical research, Ghosh serves up skeptics and holy men, merchants and sorcerers. Some of these figures are real, some only imagined, but all emerge as vividly as the characters in a great novel. In an Antique Land is an inspired work that transcends genres as deftly as it does eras, weaving an entrancing and intoxicating spell.
Amitav Ghosh, "Fiction I," Lecture 1 of 4, 9.29.15
In an Antique Land
Thank you! Enrolled as a cultural-anthropology graduate student at the University of Alexandria, Ghosh settled in into the Egyptian farming village of Lataifa. Two years earlier, he had become interested in ancient manuscripts found in a storeroom of a tenth- century Cairo synagogue; included in the cache were letters from a Jewish trader, who mentioned his Indian slave. Intrigued, Ghosh pursued the identity of his 12th-century countryman. The author's findings about the daily activities of slave and master make fascinating reading e. His affectionate portraits of the villagers and of their often colorful idiosyncracies for example, the complicated relationship between the Imam and his estranged first wife attest to his perceptivity as a sympathetic observer of a rapidly changing society. While new homes, refrigerators, TVs, and electric generators proliferate, he says, the weakening of family and civic ties proves a high price to pay.
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The cover proclaims IAAL "History in the guise of a traveller's tale," and the multi-generic book moves back and forth between Ghosh's experience living in small villages and towns in the Nile Delta and his reconstruction of a Jewish trader and his slave's lives in the eleventh century from documents from the Cairo Geniza. In the s Amitav Ghosh moved into a converted chicken coop. It was on the roof of a house in Lataifa, a tiny village in Egypt. During the day he poured over medieval letters sent to India from Cairo by Arab merchants. In the evenings he shut out the bellowing of his fat landlord by turning up the volume of his transistor radio and wrote stories based on what he had seen in the village.
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Mar 29, ISBN Jul 20, ISBN Once upon a time, an Indian writer named Amitav Ghosh set out as an Indian slave, name unknown, who some seven hundred years before had traveled to the Middle East. The journey took him to a small village in Egypt, where medieval customs coexist with twentieth-century desires and discontents. But even as Ghosh sought to re-create the life of his Indian predecessor, he found himself immersed in those of his modern Egyptian neighbors. Combining shrewd observations with painstaking historical research, Ghosh serves up skeptics and holy men, merchants and sorcerers.
The book contains two narratives. The first, an anthropological narrative, revolves around two visits made by Ghosh to two villages in the Nile Delta , while he was writing his doctoral dissertation —81 and again a few years later In the second narrative, presented parallel to the first one in the book, Ghosh reconstructs the history of a 12th-century Jewish merchant, Abraham Ben Yiju, and his slaves Ashu and Bomma, using documents from the Cairo Geniza. In an Antique Land is considered to be a stylistically curious book. Written after the success of Ghosh's first two books, The Circle of Reason and The Shadow Lines , and written more than a decade after the dissertation on which the book is based, In an Antique Land defies easy description and has been called "generically indefinable" and could be labelled as "narrative, travel book, autobiographical piece, historical account".