Amitav Ghosh’s Incendiary Circumstances

My review of Amitav Ghosh’s Incendiary Circumstances appeared in the Sunday Oregonian. Here’s an excerpt:

Amitav Ghosh’s latest book, Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times, is a collection of essays — reportage, political commentary, travel articles and even a few pieces of literary criticism. (Don’t run, this is actually pretty good.) The essays were written over a period of nearly 20 years, and the book opens with the most recent, “The Town by the Sea,” which describes Ghosh’s trip to the Andaman Islands only a few days after the tsunami struck South Asia in December of 2004. It closes with the oldest, “The Imam and the Indian,” in which Ghosh writes of how he engaged in a game of verbal bidding with an imam over which of their countries, Egypt or India, is the rightful heir to the West in terms of “guns and tanks and bombs.”

The unifying theme here is the question that looms over writers in this age, or any other age, for that matter: how to write about the world, about its turmoil and violence, without “allowing your work to become complicit with the subject.” The only answer, Ghosh suggests, is for “those who deal in words [to] pay scrupulous attention to what they say.”

Read the rest of it here.