File spoon-archives/postcolonial.archive/postcolonial_2004/postcolonial.0407, message 4

Subject: New Amitav Ghosh novel: The Hungry Tide
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 2004 10:28:54 -0400

New Amitav Ghosh novel: The Hungry Tide

(It's not even listed on Amazon yet, so maybe it will be awhile before it's
published in the U.S. Perhaps importers like will carry it

Highlights from the Outlook India review by Alok Rai:

"Dreams come easy in this magic land. And part of what is at play in
Nirmal's notebook is the contrast between the original utopian impulse that
prompted the initial "colonial" settlements of the Sunderbans by Daniel
Hamilton in the 1920s, and the subaltern-utopian motivation that underlay
the appropriation of Marichjhapi island by doubly displaced Bangladeshis in
1979. Hamilton's is a sort of "Nehruvian" ambition, to make a place where
people would shed their atavistic baggage of custom and prejudice and avail
of the blessings of modernity.

"Nature and bureaucracy - also a kind of Nature? - grind that into the mud,
because of course there is little dust in the Sunderbans. Marichjhapi island
was settled, briefly, by desperate refugees from the resettlement colony of
Dandakaranya. The heroic and ineluctable community of these
doubly-distressed Dalits was of little avail against the guns of the
"leftist" government of Kolkata, deployed in defence of the "environment"
but also, it is strongly implied, against subaltern presumption. Dreams are
soon dead, too - in this nightmare land. Nirmal's quondam-leftist yearning
for heroic, revolutionary transformation is contrasted with Nilima's modest
"liberal" ambition to "make a few little things a little better in one small
place... after all these years, it has amounted to something: it's helped
people; it's made a few people's lives a little better. But that was never
enough for Nirmal..."

"The abstract contrast between utopia and liberalism is enacted, naturally,
at the level of the their fraught domestic lives. Similarly, the tension
between the ecological-environmental position as against the needs of the
human beings who must, just as naturally, seek to survive in that hostile
environment is dramatised in the wordless and doomed passion of Piya and her
illiterate boatman Fokir."


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