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A brief biography/ 2018
Amitav Ghosh has won the 54th Jnanpith award this year for his contribution to literature. The Bharatiya Jnanpith’s statement made note of the “extraordinary depth and substance” of his fiction, and his capacity to create a space “where the past connects with the present”. It is the first time since its inception that the Jnanpith is awarded to a writer in English language.
In a tweet, Ghosh responded that he was “honoured and humbled” to be on the list with the writers whom he most admires. The award was established in 1961 and previous Jnanpith winners include India’s greatest literary lions across its many languages, like Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Pritam, UR Ananthamurthy and Shrilal Shukla.
Born in Calcutta in 1956, with his early years spent in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, as well as stints in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria, Amitav Ghosh now lives in New York. He has written many novels and essays, including ‘The Shadow Lines’ and ‘Circle of Reason’. Books like ‘In An Antique Land’ defy genre, and have been widely admired.
Ghosh’s writing has always been preoccupied with the intertwining of history and memory. His fiction roams free, taking on complicated subjects with an anthropologist’s attention and a novelist’s insight. Whether they delve into subjects like malaria or dolphins in the Sunderbans, books like ‘Calcutta Chromosome’ and ‘The Hungry Tide’ wear their learning lightly.
His recent writing has sought an imaginative response to big things that remain inarticulate — from his non-fiction on climate change, ‘The Great Derangement’, to his titanic trilogy about the opium trade and colonialism, ‘Sea of Poppies’, ‘River of Smoke’ and ‘Flood of Fire’. In these three books too, he has excelled at etching human stories out of historical flux and world events.
In a career studded with prizes, he has also won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Padma Shri. Ghosh will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Times Litfest on December 16.