Ghosh, Amitav


Amitav Ghosh signing books

Image by Frederick Noronha/CC Licensed

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), Sri Lanka, Iran and India. After graduating from the University of Delhi, he went to Oxford to study Social Anthropology and received a Master of Philosophy and a Ph. D in 1982. In 1980, he went to Egypt to do field work in the fellaheen village of Lataifa. The work he did there resulted in the novel In an Antique Land (IAAL 1993). Ghosh has been a journalist and a novelist. He published his first novel, The Circle of Reason in 1986, and his second, The Shadow Lines, in 1988. Since then, he has published IAAL, The Calcutta Chromosome, and The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, done field work in Cambodia, lived in Delhi and written for a number of publications. The Hungry Tide won the Crossword Book Prize and his novel, Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2007 he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest honors by the Indian president. He was also the joint winner of the Dan David Award in 2010 along with Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. He currently lives in New York and teaches at Columbia University.

Selected Publications

A. Books by Ghosh:

  •  The Circle of Reason. New York: Viking, 1986. 423 pp.

Ghosh’s first novel opens with the arrival of a child “Alu” (“potato”–for the shape of his head) in a small village and is divided into three sections: “Satwa: Reason,” “Rajas: Passion,” and “Tamas: Death.”

  • The Shadow Lines. New York: Penguin, 1990. (First published in England by Bloomsbury Press, 1988) 246 pp.

His second novel focuses on the narrator’s family in Calcutta and Dhaka and their connection with an English family in London.

  • In an Antique Land. New York: Vintage, 1994. (First published in England by Granta Books, 1992) 393 pp.

The cover proclaims IAAL: a “History in the guise of a traveller’s tale”. 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.

The Calcutta Chromosome, 1996.

The Calcutta Chromosome, 1996.The Calcutta Chromosome (Picador, 1996)

  • The Calcutta Chromosome.  New York: Picador, 1996.

This novel has been described as “a kind of mystery thriller” (India Today). It brings together three searches: the first is that of an Egyptian clerk, Antar, working alone in a New York apartment in the early years of the twenty-first century and tracing the adventures of L. Murugan, who disappeared in Calcutta in 1995; the second pertains to Murugan’s obsession with the missing links in the history of malaria research; the third search is that of Urmila Roy, a journalist in Calcutta in 1995 who is researching the works of Phulboni, a writer who produced a strange cycle of “Lakhan stories” that he wrote in the 1930s but suppressed thereafter.

  • The Glass Palace. New York: Random, 2000.

In a review in The New York Times, Pankaj Mishra describes Ghosh as one of few postcolonial writers “to have  expressed in his work a developing awareness of the aspirations, defeats and disappointments of colonized peoples as they figure out their place in the world.” The novel is set primarily in Burma and India and catalogs the evolving history of those regions before and during the fraught years of the second world war and India’s independence struggle.

  • The Hungry Tide. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.
This novel tells the story of the convergence of Piyali Roy, of Indian parentage but stubbornly American, and Kanai Dutt, a sophisticated Delhi businessman in the mysterious and closed Sundarbans, a remote archipelago of islands. It explores the notion of the uncharted landscape through both a geographic lens as it considers the Sundarbans and also a psychological one focusing on the uncharted nature of the human heart.
  • Sea of Poppies. London: MacMillion, 2008.
Ghosh tells the story of the Ibis and its crew as they travel around the Indian Ocean. The novel considers the politics of the opium trade in South Asia through it motley collection of travelers, crew members and trading posts. As characters collide they begin to see each other as jahaj-bhais or  “ship-brothers,” forming an unlikely alliance that supplants more conventional bonds of family and nation.
  • River of Smoke. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
The follow up to Sea of Poppies, this novel incorporates characters from the previous novel while adding new ones to the mix.  Again interested in the opium trade, this novel explores notions of hybridity and draws parallels between 19th century trade routes and contemporary trade relationships between so called “first world” and “third world” countries.

B. Selected Articles by  Ghosh

  • “The Global Reservation: Notes Toward an Ethnography of International Peacekeeping.” Cultural Anthropology 9.3 (1994): 412-422.

This essay describes Ghosh’s encounters with UN workers in Cambodia and their broader implications towards what he calls “an anthropology of the future.”

  • “The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi.” The New Yorker 17 July 1995: 35-41.

An essay on writing and politics, this account focuses on “sectarian violence” in Delhi in 1984 after which Ghosh sat down to write The Shadow Lines.

  • “The Fundamentalist Challenge.” Wilson Quarterly 19 (Spring 1995):19-31.

Examines the contradiction between “religious extremism['s]” reliance on scripture and its attack on artistic production in the late twentieth century.

  • “Holiday in Cambodia,” “Petrofiction,” and “The Human Comedy in Cairo.” The New Republic 208 (28 June 1993): 21-25l; 206 (2 Mar. 1992): 29-34; 202 (7 May 1990): 32-36.

The first of these three articles is a shorter version of his “The Global Reservation” (above). The second looks at the novels of Abdelrahman Munif and their connection to oil trade, and the third looks at the life and work of Naghib Mahfouz the year after the Egyptian writer won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

C. Further Articles to Consult

  • Aldama, Frederick Luis. 2002. An Interview with Amitav Ghosh. World Literature Today: A Literary Quarterly of the University of Oklahoma 76 (76:2): 84-90.
  • Almond, Ian. 2004. Post-Colonial Melancholy: An Examination of Sadness in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesOrbis Litterarum: International Review of Literary Studies 59 (2):90-99.
  • Alter, Alexandra. 2009. How to Write a Great Novel. The Wall Street Journal (Digital Network), November 13.
  • Anand, Divya. 2008. Words on Water: Nature and Agency in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 34 (1):21-44.
  • Bagchi, Nivedita. 1993. The Process of Validation in Relation to Materiality and Historical Reconstruction in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesMFS: Modern Fiction Studies 39 (1):187-202.
  • Balee, S. 2006. The Hungry TideHudson Review 58 (4):689-699.
  • Banerjee, Suparno. 2010. The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Silence, Slippage and Subversion, in  Hoagland, Ericka; and Sarwal, Reema, eds. Science Fiction, Imperialism and the Third World: Essays on Postcolonial Literature and Film. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2010. p. 50-64.
  • Bannerjee, Dhrubajyoti. 2006. Violent Cartography/Cartography of Violence: A Study of The Shadow LinesJournal of the Department of English 33 (1-2):234-246.
  • Barat, Urbashi. 2004. Exile and Memory: Re-Membering Home after the Partition of Bengal. InCreativity in Exile. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Bassi, Shaul. 2005. In terre antiche. La ‘premodernità liquida’ di Amitav Ghosh. In An Academic and Friendly Masala: Miscellanea di omaggi per Alberta Fabiis Grube., edited by S. Mathé. Venice, Italy: Cafoscarina.
  • Batra, Kanika. 2001. Geographical and Generic Traversings in the Writings of Amitav Ghosh. InConvergences and Interferences: Newness in Intercultural Practices/Ecritures d’une nouvelle ère/aire.Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Belliappa, K. C. 1994. Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land: An Excursion into Time Past and Time Present. Literary Criterion 29 (4):15-24.
  • Bhatt, Indira Nittayandam, Indira. 2001. The Fiction of Amitav Ghosh. New Delhi: Creative Fictions.
  • Bhattacharya, Nandini. 2006. The Partitioned Tiger: Animal Icons and the Imagined Nation in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideJournal of the Department of English 33 (1-2):224-233.
  • Black, S. 2006. Cosmopolitanism at Home: Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Line’Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41 (3):45-65.
  • Boehmer, Elleke, and Anshuman A. Mondal. 2012. Networks and Traces. An Interview with Amitav Ghosh. Wasafiri 27 (2):30-35.
  • Bruschi, Isabella. 2006. The Calcutta Chromosome. An Attempt at Disrupting Western Cultural Egemony. In English Studies 2006, edited by R. A. Henderson. Torino: Università degli Studi di Torino.
  • Butt, Nadia. 2008. Inventing or Recalling the Contact Zones? Transcultural Spaces in Amitav Ghosh’sThe Shadow LinesPostcolonial Text, Vol 4, No 3 (2008) 4 (3):1-16.
  • Cabaret, Florence. 2010. Qui est le subalterne de l’histoire indienne? Ou comment le personnage participe d’une relecture historiographique dans The Glass Palace (2000) d’Amitav Ghosh. L’atelier 2 (1).
  • Chambers, Claire. 2003. Postcolonial Science Fiction: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome.Journal of Commonwealth Literature 38 (1):57-72.
  • Chambers, Claire. 2005. ‘The Absolute Essentialness of Conversations’: A Discussion with Amitav Ghosh.Journal of Postcolonial Writing 41 (1):26-39.
  • Chambers, Claire. 2006. Anthropology as Cultural Translation: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land.Postcolonial Text 2 (3):[19 pages].
  • Chambers, Claire. 2006. Representations of the oil encounter in Amitav Ghosh’s The ‘Circle of Reason’.Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41 (1):33-50.
  • Chandra, Vinita. 2003. Suppressed Memory and Forgetting: History and Nationalism in The Shadow Lines. In Amitav Ghosh Critical Perspectives, edited by B. Bose. Delhi: Pencraft International.
  • Chaudhuri, Supriya. 2009. Translating loss: place and language in Amitav Ghosh and Salman Rushdie.Études anglaises:266.
  • Cheuse, A. 2006. The Hungry Tide. World Literature Today 80 (2):22-22.
  • Chew, Shirley. 2001. Texts and Worlds in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. In Bell, Maureen (ed. and introd.); Chew, Shirley (ed.); Eliot, Simon (ed.); Hunter, Lynette (ed.); West, James L. W., III (ed.), Re-Constructing the Book: Literary Texts in Transmission.Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2001. xi, 231 pp..edited by M. Bell, S. Chew, S. Eliot, L. Hunter and J. L. W. West, III. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
  • Cohn, Bernard S. 1996. Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in IndiaPrinceton studies in culture/power/history. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Davis, Rocío G. 2002. To Dwell in Travel: Historical Ironies in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. InMissions of Interdependence: A Literary Directory. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Dayal, Samir. 1998. The Emergence of the Fragile Subject: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. InHybridity and Postcolonialism: Twentieth-Century Indian Literature. Tübingen, Germany: Stauffenburg.
  • Dedebas, Eda. 2007. Hybrid Nations and Narratives: The Intermingling of Multinationalism and Multiple Narratives in The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. Cuadernos de Literatura Inglesa y Norteamericana 10 (1-2):83-91.
  • Desai, G. 2004. Old world orders: Amitav Ghosh and the writing of nostalgia (‘In an Antique Land’).Representations (85):125-148.
  • D’Haen, T. 2007. Antique lands, new worlds? Comparative literature, intertextuality, translation. Forum for Modern Language Studies 43 (2):107-120.
  • Dixon, Robert. 1996. ‘Travelling in the West’: The Writing of Amitav Ghosh. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 31 (1):3-24.
  • Docker, John. 1998. His Slave, My Tattoo: Romancing a Lost World. In Unfinished Journeys: India File from Canberra. Adelaide, Australia: CRNLE.
  • Fletcher, Lisa. 2011. Reading the Postcolonial Island in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideIsland Studies Journal 6 (1):3-1.
  • Florence, Cabaret. 2010. Qui est le subalterne de l ‘histoire indienne? Ou comment le personnage participe d’une relecture historiographique dans the Glass Palace (2000) d’Amitav Ghosh. L’Atelier 2 (1):1-19.
  • Foucault, Michel, Donald Fernand Bouchard, and Sherry Simon. 1977. Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Fraser, Bashabi. 2011. ‘Our Little Life Is Rounded with a Sleep’: The Scottish Presence in Andrew Greig’sIn Another Light and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide
  • Freedman, Ariela. 2005. On the Ganges Side of Modernism: Raghubir Singh, Amitav Ghosh, and the Postcolonial Modern. In Geomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP.
  • Gabriel, Sharmani Patricia. 2005. The Heteroglossia of Home: Re-’Routing’ the Boundaries of National Identity in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesJournal of Postcolonial Writing 41 (1):40-53.
  • Galuzzi, Fausto. 2009. The Theme of Translation in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. In Perspectives on English Studies, edited by R. A. Henderson. Torino: Trauben.
  • Gandhi, Leela. 2003. ‘A Choice of Histories’: Ghosh vs. Hegel in an Antique Land. New Literatures Review 40:17-32.
  • F. Gambarotta. 1991. Per una scrittura non violenta. In Un linguaggio universale, Milano: Linea d’ombra.
  • Ghosh, Bishnupriya. 2004. On Grafting the Vernacular: The Consequences of Postcolonial Spectrology.Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture 31 (2):197-218.
  • Ghosh-Schellhorn, Martina. 2006. Chromosoming Utopia: A Virtual World in Anglophone Indian Fiction In Mediating Indian Writing in English: German Responses, edited by B.-P. Lange and M. Pandurang. Berlin.
  • Glabazna, Radek. 2010. The Medieval Middle East as a Space of Cultural Hybridity in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. In Space in Cultural and Literary Studies.. edited by A. Ciuk and K. Molek-Kozakowska. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Glabazna, Radek. 2005. Palimpsest and Seduction: The Glass Palace and White TeethKunapipi: Journal of Postcolonial Writing 27 (1):75-87.
  • Gopal, Priyamvada. 2004. Amitav Ghosh (1956- ). In World Writers in English, Volume I: Chinua Achebe to V. S. Naipaul. New York, NY: Scribner’s.
  • Gorlier, Claudio. 1996. Il cromosoma Calcutta. L’indice dei libri del mese (6).
  • Grewal, Inderpal. 2005. Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, NeoliberalismsDurham, NC: Duke UP, 2005. xi, 280 pp.. (Durham, NC: Next Wave: New Directions in Women’s Studies). Durham, NC: Duke UP.
  • Grewal, Inderpal. 2008. Amitav Ghosh: Cosmopolitanisms, Literature, Transnationalisms  In The Postcolonial and the Global. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P.
  • Grimal, C. 2006. The ‘Hungry tide’. Quinzaine Litteraire (923):14-16.
  • Guilhamon, Lise. 2011. La traduction dans The Hungry Tide (2004) d’Amitav Ghosh comme site de resistance, de decentrement et de negociation culturelle. Paper read at 4ème Congrès du Réseau Asie & Pacifique, at Paris, France.
  • Gunning, Dave. 2009. History, Anthropology, Necromancy – Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land InPostcolonial Ghosts/Fantômes post-coloniaux. edited by M. Joseph-Vilain and J. Misrahi-Barak. Montpellier, France: Universitaires de la Méditerranée.
  • Gupta, R. K. 1994. Trends in modern Indian fiction. World Literature Today: a literary quarterly of the University of Oklahoma (Norman) 68 (2).
  • Gupta, R. K. 2006. ‘That Which a Man Takes for Himself No One Can Deny Him’: Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace and the Colonial Experience. International Fiction Review 33 (1-2):18-26.
  • Gurnah, A. 2004. The ‘Hungry Tide’. Tls-the Times Literary Supplement (5285):21-21.
  • Gurr, Jens Martin. 2010. Emplotting an Ecosystem: Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide and the Question of Form in Ecocriticism In Local Natures, Global Responsibilities: Ecocritical Perspectives on the New English Literatures, edited by L. Volkmann, N. Grimm, I. Detmers and K. Thomson. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Guttman, Anna. 2010. The Jew in the Archive: Textualizations of (Jewish?) History in Contemporary South Asian Literature. Contemporary Literature 51 (3):503-531.
  • Hanquart-Turner, Evelyne. 2011. The Search for Paradise: Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. InProjections of Paradise: Ideal Elsewheres in Postcolonial Migrant Literature, edited by H. Ramsey-Kurz and G. Ganapathy-Doré. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Haque, Md Rezaul. 2012. The Precursory Dialectic in The Circle of Reason. In The Shadow of the Precursor. Edited by D. Glenn, M. R. Haque, B. Kooyman and N. Bierbaum. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Harrington, Louise. 2011. An-Other Space: Diasporic Responses to Partition in Bengal. In India and the Diasporic Imagination/L’Inde et l’imagination diasporique, edited by R. Christian and J. Misrahi-Barak. Montpellier, France: PU de la Méditerranée.
  • Hawley, John C. 2005. Amitav Ghosh. New Delhi, India: Foundation Books.
  • Hicks, K. 2006. The Hungry Tide. Society & Animals 14 (3):312-315.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2000. Narration and Silence in the Works of Amitav Ghosh. World Literature Written in English 38 (2):28-43.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas.  2004. Representation of London in The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. Literary London: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Representation of London 2 (1):18 paragraphs.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2008. The Calcutta Chromosome: The Ethics of Silence and Knowledge. In Seeking the Self-Encountering the Other: Diasporic Narrative and the Ethics of Representation, edited by T. I.
  • Huttunen, Kaisa; Korkka, Janne; Valovirta, Elina. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2008. Representation of Riots in The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh. In Riots in Literature, edited by D. P. Bell, Gerald; Tiusanen, Jukka. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2009. Ethics, Language, and the Writing of Amitav Ghosh. In A Sea for Encounters: Essays towards a Postcolonial Commonwealth, edited by S. B. Barthet. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Huttunen, Tuomas. 2012. Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason—Dismantling the Idea of Purity. Nordic Journal of English Studies 11 (1).
  • James, Louis. 1991. Shadow Lines: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in the Fiction of Amitav Ghosh.Commonwealth Essays and Studies 14 (1):28-32.
  • Jones, Stephanie. 2003. A Novel Genre: Polylingualism and Magical Realism in Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of ReasonBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 66 (3):431-41.
  • Kadam, Mansi G. 2006. Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace: A Post-Colonial Novel. In Indian Writing in English, edited by B. Mishra and S. Kumar. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers.
  • Kamath, Rekha. 1998. Memory and Discourse: On Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. In The Poetics of Memory. Tübingen, Germany: Stauffenburg.
  • Kapadia, Novy. 1990. Imagination and Politics in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines. In The New Indian Novel in English: A Study of the 1980s. New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd.
  • Kapadia, Novy. 1990. Imagination and Politics in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.
    In The New Indian Novel in English: A Study of the 1980s. New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd.
  • Kaul, Suvir. 1994. Separation Anxiety: Growing Up Inter/National in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.Oxford Literary Review 16 (1-2):125-45.
  • Khair, Tabish. 2001. Babu Fictions: Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Novels. Delhi and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Khair, Tabish. 2003. Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Companion. Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Khatri, C. L. 2001. The Narrative Technique of Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesZenith: A Literary Magazine 7:50-55.
  • Kich, Martin. 2000. Mosquito Bites and Computer Bytes: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome.Notes on Contemporary Literature 30 (4):9-12.
  • Kumar, T. Vijay. 2007. ‘Postcolonial’ Describes You as a Negative: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh.Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 9 (1):99-105.
  • Maharaj, Neelam A. 2006. Amitav Ghosh and The Forgotten Army. Postcolonial Text 2 (2).
  • Maher, Moustaga. 1995. Eine Reise durch Kulturen und Zeiten: Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land(1992): ‘Essai’ eines interkulturellen Interpretations. In Der Gebrauch der Sprache. Münster, Germany: Lit.
  • Majeed, Javed. 1995. Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land: The Ethnographer-Historian and the Limits of Irony. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 30 (2):45-55.
  • Majumdar, N. 2003. Shadows of the Nation: Amitav Ghosh and the Critique of Nationalism. Ariel-a Review of International English Literature 34 (2-3):237-258.
  • Mallot, J. Edward. 2007. ‘A Land Outside Space, an Expanse without Distances’: Amitav Ghosh, Kamila Shamsie, and the Maps of Memory. Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory 18 (3):261-84.
  • Marx, John. 2011. The Historical Novel After Lukács. In Georg Lukács: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence: Aesthetics, Politics, Literature., edited by T. Bewes and T. Hall. New York, NY: Continuum.
  • Mathur, Suchitra. 2004. Caught between the Goddess and the Cyborg: Third-World Women and the Politics of Science in Three Works of Indian Science Fiction. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 39 (3):119-38.
  • Mee, Jon. 2003. The Burthen of the Mystery. Imagination and Difference in The Shadow Lines. InAmitav Ghosh. A Critical Companion, edited by T. Kair. Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Mehta, P. B. 2000. Cosmopolitanism and the Circle of ReasonPolitical Theory 28 (5):619.
  • Merrill, Christi Ann. 2007. Laughing out of Place: Humour Alliances and Other Postcolonial Translations in In an Antique LandInterventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 9 (1):106-123.
  • Mondal, Anshuman A.  2003. Allegories of Identity: ‘Postmodern’ Anxiety and ‘Postcolonial’ Ambivalence in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land and The Shadow LinesJournal of Commonwealth Literature 38 (3):19-36.
  • Mondal, Anshuman. 2007. Amitav Ghosh. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.
  • Mongia, Padmini. 1992. Postcolonial Identity and Gender Boundaries in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesCollege Literature 19-20 (3-1 [Double issue]):225-28.
  • Mongia, Padmini. 2005. Between Men: Conrad in the Fiction of Two Contemporary Indian Writers. InConrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Mukherjee, Pablo. 2006. Surfing the Second Waves: Amitav Ghosh’s Tide Country. New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics 59:144-157.
  • Nayar, Pramod K. 2010. The Postcolonial Uncanny: The Politics of Dispossession in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideCollege Literature 37 (4):88-119.
  • Nelson, Diane M. 2003. A Social Science Fiction of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery: The Calcutta Chromosome, the Colonial Laboratory, and the Postcolonial New Human. Science Fiction Studies 30 (2 [90]):246-66.
  • Neluka, Silva, and Alex Tickell. 2003. An Interview with Amitav Ghosh. In Amitav Ghosh Critical Perspectives, edited by B. Bose. Delhi: Pencraft International.
  • Prasad, Murari. 2007. Transcending the Postcolonial: Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique LandLiterary Criterion 42 (2):51-61.
  • Prusse, Michael C. 2009. Imaginary Pasts: Colonisation, Migration and Loss in J. G. Farrell’s The Singapore Grip and in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass PalaceTransnational Literature 2 (1).
  • Pulugurtha, Nishi. 2010. Refugees, Settlers and Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide.In Local Natures, Global Responsibilities: Ecocritical Perspectives on the New English Literatures, edited by L. Volkmann, N. Grimm, I. Detmers and K. Thomson. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Radhakrishnan, R. 2001. Globalization, desire, and the politics of representation. Comparative Literature (Univ. of Oregon, Eugene) 53 (4):315.
  • Radhakrishnan, R. 2002. Derivative Discourses and the Problem of Signification. European Legacy: Toward New Paradigm 7 (6):783-95.
  • Rao, Nagesh. 2003. Cosmopolitanism, Class and Gender in The Shadow LinesSouth Asian Review 24 (1):95-115.
  • Rath, Arnapurna, and Milind Malshe. 2011. Chronotopes of “Places” and “Non-places”: Ecopoetics of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideAsiatic 4 (2):14-33.
  • Reddy, Sheela. 2008. Interview with Amitav Ghosh. “The Ghazipur and Patna Opium Factories Together Produced the Wealth of Britain”. Outlook, 26 May.
  • Rollason, Christopher. 2005. “In Our Translated World”. Transcultural Communication in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideAtlantic Review 6 (1):86-107.
  • Rollason, Christopher. 2009. Empire, Sense of Place and Cultures in Contact – George Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days’ and Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Glass Palace’. Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures 9 (June).
  • Romanik, B. 2005. Transforming the Colonial City: Science and the Practice of Dwelling in The Calcutta ChromosomeMosaic-a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 38 (3):41-57.
  • Roy, Anjali. 2000. Microstoria: Indian Nationalism’s ‘Little Stories’ in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesJournal of Commonwealth Literature 35 (2):35-49.
  • Roy, Rituparna. 2010. South Asian Partition Fiction in English : From Khushwant Singh to Amitav Ghosh. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Schulze-Engler, Frank. 2000. Literature in the Global Ecumene of Modernity: Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason and In an Antique Land. In English Literatures in International Contexts.. Heidelberg, Germany: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag.
  • Sen, Asha. 1997. Crossing Boundaries in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesJournal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 5 (1):46-58.
  • Sen, Asha. 1998. Child Narrators in The Shadow LinesCracking India, and Meatless DaysWorld Literature Written in English 37 (1-2):190-206.
  • Sen, Biswarup. 2001. Interview with Amitav Ghosh. Persimmon: Asian Literature, Arts, and Culture 2 (2):62-65.
  • Sen, Krishna. 2006. Amitav Ghosh. In South Asian Writers in English. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.
  • Shikha, Kumari. 2011. Ecocriticism in Indian Fiction. IRWLE.  7 (1).
  • Shinn, Christopher A. 2008. On Machines and Mosquitoes: Neuroscience, Bodies, and Cyborgs in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta ChromosomeMELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 33 (4):145-166.
  • Siddiqi, Yumna. 2002. Police and Postcolonial Rationality in Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of Reason.Cultural Critique 50:175-211.
  • Simon, S. 1998. Frontiers of memory: The partition of India in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.Etudes Francaises 34 (1):29-43.
  • Singh, Jaspal Kaur. 2010. The Indian Diaspora in Burma and the Politics of Globalization in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace and Mira Kamdar’s Motiba’s Tattoos. In Indian Writers: Transnationalisms and Diasporas , edited by J. K. Singh and R. Chetty. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Singh, Sushila. 1992. Double Self in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesLanguage Forum: A Half-Yearly Journal of Language and Literature 18 (1-2):135-42.
  • Singh, Sujala. 2004. Who Can Save the Subaltern? Knowledge and Power in Amitav Ghosh’s The Circle of ReasonCritical Survey 16 (2):45-58.
  • Singh, Sujala. 2005. The Routes of National Identity in Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Shadow Lines’. InAlternative Indias: Writing, Nation and Communalism. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi.
  • Sircar, Arjya. 1992. The Stranger Within: Amitav Ghosh’s Quest for Identity. Language Forum: A Half-Yearly Journal of Language and Literature 18 (1-2):143-47.
  • Skinner, John. 2002. Embodying Voices: Language and representation in Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass PalaceBELL: Belgian Essays on Language and Literature:137-149.
  • Smith, Eric D. 2007. ‘Caught Straddling a Border’: A Novelistic Reading of Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique LandJournal of Narrative Theory 37 (37:3):447-472,498.
  • Spyra, A. 2006. Is cosmopolitanism not for women? Migration in Qurratulain Hyder’s Sita Betrayed and Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow LinesFrontiers-a Journal of Women Studies 27 (2):1-26.
  • Srivastava, Neelam. 2001. Amitav Ghosh’s Ethnographic Fictions: Intertextual Links between In an Antique Land and His Doctoral Thesis. Journal of Commonwealth Literature 36 (2):45-64.
  • Su, John J. 2011. Amitav Ghosh and the Aesthetic Turn in Postcolonial Studies. Journal of Modern Literature 34 (3):65-86.
  • Tadie, A. 2002. Amitav Ghosh: the Nuances of History. Esprit (1):62-73.
  • Thieme, John. 1994. Passages to England. In Liminal Postmodernisms: The Postmodern, the (Post-)Colonial, and the (Post-)Feminist. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Thieme, John. 2003. The Discoverer Discovered. In Amitav Ghosh. A Critical Companion, edited by T. Khair. Delhi: Permanent Black.
  • Thieme, John. 2007. Amitav Ghosh: The Hungry Tide. In Literary Encyclopedia.
  • Thompson, Hilary. 2009. The Colonial City as Inverted Laboratory in Baumgartner’s Bombay and The Calcutta ChromosomeJournal of Narrative Theory 39 ((39:3)):347-368,417-418.
  • Thrall, James H. 2009. Postcolonial Science Fiction?: Science, Religion and the Transformation of Genre in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta ChromosomeLiterature & Theology: An International Journal of Religion, Theory, and Culture 23 (3):289-302.
  • Tomsky, Terri. 2009. Amitav Ghosh’s Anxious Witnessing and the Ethics of Action in The Hungry Tide.Journal of Commonwealth Literature 44 (1):53-65.
  • Urry, John, and Inc NetLibrary. 1990. The tourist gaze: leisure and travel in contemporary societies. London ; Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2007. Storia e conoscenza storica in Midnight’s Children e The Shadow Lines. In Le trame della conoscenza, edited by M. Bignami, Milano: Unicopli.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2009. Amitav Ghosh in Conversation. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 40 (4):129-141.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2011. Amitav Ghosh. Firenze: Le Lettere.
  • Vescovi, Alessandro. 2011. Voicing Unspoken Histories: Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies as Research Novel. In History and Narration: Looking Back from the Twentieth Century, edited by M. Bignami, F. Orestano and A. Vescovi. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholar Press.
  • Vinay, Lal. 2012. The politics of culture and knowledge after postcolonialism: Nine theses (and a prologue). Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 27 (2):191-205.
  • Viswanathan, Gauri. 1995. Beyond Orientalism: Syncretism and the Politics of Knowledge. Stanford Humanities Review 5 (1):19-34.
  • Wassef, Hind. 1998. Beyond the Divide: History and National Boundaries in the Work of Amitav Ghosh.Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 18:75-95 (English section), 212-13 (Arabic section).
  • Weik, Alexa. 2006. The Home, the Tide, and the World: Eco-Cosmopolitan Encounters in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry TideJournal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 13-14 (2-1):120-141.
  • Whitrow, Magda. 1993. Julius Wagner-Jauregg (1857-1940). London: Smith Gordon.
  • Zanganeh, Lila Azam. 2011. Excavation: Lila Azam Zanganeh interviews Amitav Ghosh. Guernica,
  • Zullo, Federica. 2009. Il cerchio della storia. Conflitti e paure nell’opera di Amitav Ghosh. Padova: il Poligrafo.

 Web Resources

Amitav Ghosh’s Personal Website

Amitav Ghosh’s Twitter Feed

Author: Peter Nowakoski, Spring 1996
Last edited: June 2012

Spice Trade in India


Spices in Mapusa Market, Goa, India/CC Licensed

Spices in Mapusa Market, Goa, India/CC Licensed

Buying black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and other spices  is so inexpensive now that it seems hard to believe that once,  they were valued as highly as gold and silver.

Archaeologists estimate that from as far back as 50,000 B.C. humans had used the special qualities of aromatic plants to help flavor their food. The primitive human would have utilized the sweet-smelling spices in order to make  food taste better. They would have offered all sorts of aromatic herbs to their primitive gods and used the spices for healing properties. From that moment on, spices played an important role in human existence.

Spice Trade in the Ancient World

Trade in the ancient world included the use of caravans with as many as 4,000 camels carrying  the treasures from the east, namely, spices. We can imagine the caravans trudging along from Calicut, Goa and the Orient to the spice markets in Babylon, Carthage, Alexandria, and Rome. For hundreds of years, traders also used ships which sailed along the Indian coast, past the Persian Gulf, along the coast of South Arabia, and finally through the Red Sea into Egypt. Trade in antiquity was subject to constant robberies, storms and shipwrecks, and piracy. Despite the setbacks, however, spices were in such great demand (especially during the highly developed Greek and Roman eras) that the profits outweighed the risks.

The most lucrative of the spice traders during this time were the Arabians. South Arabia was the great spice emporium in antiquity. In The Story of Spices, there is an anecdote as told by Herodotus about the “method” the Arabians had used to gather cinnamon:

Great birds, they say, bring the sticks which we Greeks call cinnamon, and carry them up into the air to make their nests. The Arabians, to get the cinnamon, use the following artifice. They cut all the oxen and beasts of burden that die in their land into large pieces and place them near the nests: then they withdraw to a distance, and the old birds, swooping down, seize the pieces of meat and fly with them up to their nests; which not being able to support the weight, break off and fall to the ground. Hereupon the Arabians return and collect the cinnamon, which is afterwards carried from Arabia to other countries. (Parry 38)

By taking advantage of the fact that people during this time believed in witchcraft, charms, omens, and magic, the Arabians had convinced the rest of the Ancient world that the only way they could obtain the valuable spices was by trading with the Arabians. The Arabians used mythological stories to hide the true sources of the spices and therefore succeeded in acquiring the first monopoly on the spice trade.

The Portuguese in India

In 1498 during the Age of Discovery, one Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut, India and changed the course of history. da Gama’s discovery of an alternate route to India marked the beginning of the short-lived dominion the Portuguese had on the spice trade. Under the impetus of the spice trade, Portugal expanded territorially and commercially. By the year 1511, the Portuguese were in control of the spice trade of the Malabar coast of India and Ceylon. Until the end of the 16th century, their monopoly on the spice trade to India was exceptionally profitable for the Portuguese.

The main product brought back to Lisbon was black pepper. Pipernigrum was as valuable as gold in the age of discovery. In the 16th century, over half of Portugal’s state revenue came from West African gold and Indian pepper and other spices. The proportion of the spices greatly outweighed the gold.

The Portuguese monopoly on the pepper trade was not a long one, however, because they faced many problems from competition and from the pepper growers. By the 1580s the imports of pepper into Venice had increased, and that into Portugal had declined. Portugal had little to no control over the areas where pepper was grown.  There were many instances of “illegal” trading. Cargoes were hijacked inland and taken to the Red Sea by coolie or bullocks over the mainland. When the 1590s rolled around, the Dutch attacked and successfully put an end to the Portuguese monopoly.

Spice Consumption in Europe during the Renaissance

People in the Renaissance found many uses for spices and the spice trade was basic to the Renaissance economy. Pepper was used to preserve and to flavor spoiled meat. Cloves and cinnamon were used as substitutes for cleanliness and ventilation. They were strewn across the floor to prevent foot odor from permeating the room. People carried around pieces of nutmeg fitted with a tiny grater, ready to season unsavory, unpalatable food. Around many a Renaissance throat there hung spicy pomander to ward off suffocation, illness, and odor. The spice  supplier for most of the countries in Europe was India. Pepper originated out off Cochin and the Malabar Coast, cinnamon and cardamom were native to Ceylon, and cloves were grown in the coast of the Bay of Bengal.

The Dutch and English in India

With the waning power of the Portuguese apparent, the Dutch and the English saw their opportunity to gain power in the spice trade world in India.

The Dutch entered the competition in earnest at the end of the 16th century. Dutch explorers Van Houtman and Van Neck made friends with native sultans and organized trading posts which eventually gave Holland the monopoly in the early 17th century. In 1658, the cinnamon trade in Ceylon was under their control, and in 1663, the best pepper ports on the Malabar Coast were theirs. When prices for cinnamon or other spices fell too low in Amsterdam, they would burn the spices.

England was an immense threat to the Portuguese and later, the Dutch, because they were a power at sea.  In 1600, the British East India Company was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, and its major objective was obtaining spice cargoes.  The British worked slowly in their attempt to gain the power away from the Dutch, and finally in 1780, England and Holland started a war which severely weakened Dutch power in India. By the 1800s everything that once belonged to Portugal and Holland was controlled by the British.

Modern Trade

Spice growers now export their products through their own organizations or through exporting houses. Spices are now distributed by food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. With the advances in technology and science, too, the spices are now able to flourish in other parts of the world with similar climates as India.

See: Salman RushdieJews in India, Geography and Empire


  • Baker, J.N.L. A History of Geographical Discovery and Exploration. London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1931.
  • Boxer, C.R. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire. London: Hutchinson, 1969, 1415-1825
  • Disney, A. R. Twilight of the Pepper Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.
  • King, Leonard W. Babylonian Magic and Sorcery. London: Luzac & Co., 1896.
  • Parry, John W. The Story of Spices. New York: Chemical Publishing Co., Inc., 1953.
  • Pearson, M.N. The Portuguese in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Sykes, Brigadier General Sir Percy. A History of Exploration. London: George Routledge & Sons Ltd., 1934.

Author: Louise Marie M. Cornillez, Spring 1999  Last edited: June 2012

Kiarostami, Abbas


Kiarostami in Venice

Image by Mansour Nasiri/CC Licensed

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami was born on June 22, 1940 in Tehran. Interested in art from an early age, he won a painting competition at 18 and left his home to study at Tehran University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. After completing his studies, he began work as a designer and illustrator. Throughout the 1960s, Kiarostami worked in advertising, making commercials, designing posters, creating credit titles for films, and illustrating children’s books. He also had a stint as a traffic police officer.

Kiarostami‘s introduction to film came in 1969 when he helped to create the film-making department at the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. The first film produced by the department, coincidentally, was Kiarostami‘s own debut work, the short film Bread and Alley (1970). The film department would eventually become the most famous film studio in Iran, producing many other Iranian films as Bahram Beizai’s Bahsu, the Little Stranger (1989), as well as all of Kiarostami‘s films.

In the years since Bread and Alley, Kiarostami has gone on to make over 20 films, covering different genres that include fiction, educational works, documentaries, and films for television. It was not until the 1990s that his films began to show outside Iran, beginning with And Life Goes On (1992) and Through the Olive Trees (1994), both shown at the New York Film Festival. He shortly garnered worldwide recognition, and in 1997 earned huge success when his film Taste of Cherry won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d’Or. He was the first Iranian director to win the prize.

More than just critical acclaim, however, Kiarostami has also received the respect and praise from many of his well-known contemporaries, such as Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa, who is quoted as saying: “I believe the films of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami are extraordinary. Words cannot relate my feelings. I suggest you see his films; and then you will see what I mean.” (AFI 2001)

“Though Kiarostami‘s films have been compared at various times to those of Satyajit Ray, Vittorio de Sica, Eric Rohmer, or Jacques Tati, they remain uniquely Kiarostamian. Effortlessly simple and conceptually complex in equal measure; poetic, lyrical, meditative, self-reflexive and increasingly sophisticated, they mix fiction and documentary in unique ways, often presenting fact as fiction and fiction as fact. Kiarostami has said, ‘We can never get close to the truth except through lying’” (Zeitgeist Films 2000).

His Films

1970 – Bread and Alley (Naan va Kooche)
1972 – Recess (Zang-e Tafrih)
1973 – Experience (Tajrobeh)
1974 – Traveller (Mosafer)
1975 – Two Solutions for One Problem (Doe Rah-e Hal)
1975 – So Can I (Man ham Mitoumam)
1976 – The Colors (Rangha)
1976 – The Wedding Suit (Lebassi Baraye Arossi)
1977 – The Report (Gozaresh)
1977 – Tribute to the Teachers (Bozorgdasht-e mo’Allem)
1977 – How to Make Use of Our Leisure Time? (Az Oghat-e Faraghat-eKhod Chegouneh Estefadeh Konim?)
1978 – Solution (Rah Hal-e Yek)
1979 – Case No.1, Case No.2 (Ghazieh-e Shekl-e AvalGhazieh-eShekl-e Dovom)
1980 – Dental Hygiene (Behdasht-e Dandan)
1981 – Regularly or Irregularly (Be Tartib ya Bedoun-e Tartib)
1982 – The Chorus (Hamsarayan)
1983 – Fellow Citizen (Hamshahri)
1983 – Toothache (Dandan Darad)
1984 – First Graders (Avaliha)
1987 – Where Is the Friend’s Home? (Khane-ye Doust Kodjast?)
1989 – Homework (Mashgh-e Shab)
1990 – Close-Up (Nema-ye Nazdik)
1992 – And Life Goes On (Zendegi Edame Darad)
1994 – Through The Olive Trees (Zire Darakhatan Zeyton)
1997 – Taste of Cherry (Ta’ame Gilas)
1999 – The Wind Will Carry Us (Baad Mar Ra Khahad Bord)

2001- ABC Africa

2002- Ten

2003- Five

2004-10 on Ten

2005-6- The Roads of Kiarostami

2005- Tickets


2010-Certified Copy


(Filmography courtesy Iran Media)

Taste of Cherry

Homayon Ershadi  -  Mr. Badii
Abdolrahman Bagheri  -  Mr. Bagheri
Safar Ali Moradi  -  The soldier
Mir Hossein Noori  -  The seminarian

The film that brought Kiarostami international acclaim tells the story of Mr.Badii, a middle-aged man intent on committing suicide. Badii drives around in his vehicle, looking for someone he can hire to bury him, as he has already dug his grave and plans to kill himself in it. He drives past the day laborers first, but does not stop. His plan is to find someone who will come to his grave site the next day to bury him if he has succeeded in killing himself, or to help him if he has failed. As Badii drives around, he asks the strangers he meets about their financial means, attempting to find someone desperate enough to complete the task. He offers rides to three people during the day, a soldier, a seminarian,and a taxidermist. The first two men both refuse to help Badii. The soldier runs away in fear, while the seminarian refuses on religious grounds and instead attempts to sway Badii from committing the act by preaching to him. Inevitably, the taxidermist accepts the task, because, even though he does not want Badii to commit suicide, he has a sick child and needs the money. The film ends with Badii lying in his grave, still alive when the final shot fades out.

Does Badii die? It seems that Kiarostami intends that the audience never know because it seems that the film is not about suicide but about life. Though Badii drives around in search of someone who will aid him in his task, he does not pay heed to those that he knows are qualified to do the job, such as the day laborers. Instead, he calls upon people that he seems to think might help him in other ways, people who appear to have some meaning in life, which very well might be the thing for which Badii is really searching.  “In essence, A Taste of Cherry is not about a man’s search for death, but his search for a reason for living” (Acquarello 2000).

“The film’s central character wants to commit suicide, and we don’t know why. After a day of deliberation and preparation, we don’t even know whether he succeeds. It could be argued. . .that Kiarostami omits this kind of information because he has nothing to say. I would counter that because Kiarostami is speaking with and through us — inviting us to share in a collective, common narrative — we have to share part of the burden of whether the film is saying anything….  If we don’t want to think about our own deaths and what they might say about our lives — or about the possible suicides of strangers and how we might respond to their appeals – Taste of Cherry can’t have anything to say to us” (Rosenbaum 1997).


Ali Sabzian  -  Himself
Abolfazl Ahahkhah  -  Herself
Mahrokh Ahahkhah  -  Herself
Mohsen Makmalbef  -  Himself

Based on actual events, Close-Up is a film about a man facing trial for falsely impersonating a famous Iranian director, Mohsen MakmalbefThe story tells of the man (Sabzian) who, while he is reading a screenplay by Makmalbef, meets a woman on a bus.  When the woman (Marohrokh Ahankhah) shows interest in the screenplay, Sabzian tells her that he is Makmalbef. She invites him to dinner at her house with her family, where her husband (Abolfazl Ahahkhah), upon hearing Sabzian say that their house would be the perfect setting for his film, invites him to stay with them. During the trial, the Ahankhah family argues that Sabzian was surveying the house in order to rob it, while he claims that he first told the Ahahkhahs he was Makmalbef because he was hungry. Only later did he continue to impersonate the director because of his love for film and the confidence it gave him. The trial ends with the judge accepting Sabzian‘s repentance and asking the Ahahkhah family to forgive him, but the film does not end until Sabzian meets the man he impersonated, Makmalbef himself, outside the courthouse.

Though the events described in the trial occur in flashbacks, Kiarostami filmed the trial before he filmed the flashback scenes. His intentions were mostly out of curiosity ­ as a film director, he wondered why a man would want to impersonate a film director. When he decided to make the story into a film, in addition to casting the actual people involved in the trial as themselves for the flashback sequences, Kiarostami also filmed the trial in a crude documentary form and accidentally used a microphone that did not work during the finals moments of the film between Sabzian and Makmalbef. He blends the reality of the story with the superficiality of film to accentuate the nature of Sabzian, a man so enamored of cinema that he twists reality to become a part of it. “The result is a masterpiece about the mechanism of and the relationship between cinema and the viewer, filmmaking and acting, reality and fiction” (Iran Media). In a way, one might consider Close-Up a story about Kiarostami, as film has become the thing of which he is so much a part that he no longer distinguishes his life from his work. In the final scene, when Sabzian meets Makmalbef, the man he idolized through impersonation, “the question arises: are we still watching a film or real-life unfold before us? To Abbas Kiarostami, it is all one and the same phenomenon — a captured moment in the evolving document of life” (Acquarello, 2000).


Works Cited

  • Abbas Kiarostami. Acquarello. 11 April 2000. Strictly Film School. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.
  • The Films of Abbas Kiarostami. American Film Institute. 2001. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.
  • Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Fill in the Blanks. Chicago Reader. 1997. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.
  • Various contributors. Iran Media ­Abbas Kiarostami. Nima Web Design. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.
  • Various contributors. Zeitgeist Films: Close-Up: Abbas Kiarostami. Zeitgeist Films.  2000. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.

Selected Bibliography

  • Abbas Kiarostami, Iranian Director. Film International (Quarterly). 1994. 2 Dec. 2001.
  • Cardullo, Bert. Dialogue with directors : conversations on film. Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang, 2011.
  • Dabashi, Hamid. Close up : Iranian cinema, past, present, and future.New York : Verso, 2001.
  • Home, Exile, Homeland. Hamid Naficy. New York:  Routledge, 1999.
  • Maghsoudlou, Bahman. Iranian Cinema. New York:  Hagop Kervorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies,  1987.
  • Madhi, Ali Akbar. In dialogue with Kiarostami. The Iranian. 25 Aug. 1998. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.
  • Saeed-Vafa, Mehrnaz and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Abbas Kiarostami. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2003.
  • Scaruffi, Piero. Abbas Kiarostami: biography, reviews, links. 1999. 2 Dec. 2001. Web.
  • Zanganeh, Lila Azam. My sister, guard your veil; my brother, guard your eyes : uncensored Iranian voices. Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, 2006.

Related Sites

Films Without Borders: Abbas Kiarostami Talks About “ABC Africa” and Poetic Cinema

The Iranian Who Won the World’s Attention
Zeigeist Films’ Biography of Abbas Kiarostami 

Author: Wesley Kerns, Fall 2001

Last Updated: July 2012

Victorian Women Travelers in the 19th Century

Why Women Began To Travel

Portsmouth Dockyard painting by James Tissot, 1877//public domain

Portsmouth Dockyard painting by James Tissot, 1877/public domain

Women began to travel in the nineteenth century for many personal and political reasons. Some women sought to further a cause, like missionary work, while others traveled to satisfy personal curiosities of “exotic” lands. Most women, however, traveled to escape gender oppression in Europe (Stevenson 2). One form of gender oppression had manifested in scholarly and scientific writing, in which women scholars were not taken seriously. This was especially clear in attitudes towards women who researched and collected data, so women traveled to create a space for their research. In India, this proved to be a successful method of advancement in anthropology. White women were admitted into harems and zenanas, the homes of hundreds of eastern women, for the purpose of study. Men, however, were not allowed into these female dwellings. This allowed women that had come abroad to study and have expertise in an area where men had no access (Ghose 10). Race provided women with immediate empowerment (Ghose 9).

White women travelers were hailed for their advancement of feminism. Many of the women were surprised at this honor for their intent was not political. Yet whether women traveled for a political purpose or not, the power they gained in foreign lands as opposed to at home caused them to re-examine their position in Europe (Blunt 124). This realization of oppression and domination by the male gender, however, did little for the liberation of people in the East. Rather, the East was seen as a place for women to regain power through race, which was lost at home because of gender (Stevenson 125).

Uses of Personal and Scientific Research

Many of the observations made by women traveling to the East concerned the indigenous people (Stevenson 10). Women viewed the people of the “Orient” from many different personal positions. Some female travelers identified with the people of the land as objects of study. They related to the native people because as women they were also objectified in Europe. This relation of marginalization allowed feminist travelers to advance the status of European women by showing gender hierarchy in another context. Anti-feminists, however, identified with the native women to support the idea that European women were losing their femininity (Ghose 53). Although few of the women travelers were known to be sympathetic to the cause of the indigenous peoples, Mary Kingsley advocated for anticolonial causes (Stevenson 11).

Objectification rather than identification was the more common approach on the study of native people. By studying the indigenous peoples, women were able to rise to the status of the white male in scholarly writing and in literature. These women behaved paternalistically towards the natives, as white men acted towards them.  Female European researchers who objectified native women were very critical of the people and the land that they saw around them. The travel writings of the 19th century are known to be full of exaggeration, specifically about the violent tendencies of the native peoples. Victorian women often painted a picture in which African peoples were savages waiting to be tamed and trained to live better lives (Stevenson 10).

Marie Postans, an English traveler, represents many of the superior attitudes of Europeans. In the following example, she writes of Hindu holidays and their interference with daily life: “Hindu holidays interfere sadly with the labors of the working classes” (Ghose 35). Postans’ words re-emphasize the idea that the Indian way of living is lazy and fun-loving thus being unsuitable for the development of their own peoples. Postans’ documentation of Indian behavior supported an existing belief in the Puritan work ethic during the nineteenth century. By describing the Indian population as lazy, the European population, in contrast, became sober and hard working. According to colonial belief, it was only through better European schooling and exposure to English enlightenment that would lead to an advancement of the Indian people (35).

Another example is illustrated within the context of the remarks made by white women about women’s behavior in the harem or zenana in India. Many conservative white women viewed Indian women in harems as the over-sexed and demented. White women contrasted their own behavior to the behavior of Indian women. As Isabella Bird claims:

I have lived in Zenanas, and have seen the daily life of the secluded woman, and I can speak from bitter experience of what their lives are–the intellect dwarfed, so that a woman of twenty or thirty years of age is more like a child of eight, intellectually; while all the worst passions of human nature are stimulated and developed to a Fearful degree: jealousy, envy, murderous hate, intrigue, running to such an extent that in some countries I have hardly ever been to a woman’s house without being asked for drugs with which to disfigure the favorite wife, or to take away the life of the favorite wife’s infant son.  (qtd in Ghose 63)

Bird’s description of the native population makes Europeans seem superior in intelligence and morality. She views the “child-like” Indian woman and believes that Indians need to be saved from their own demise. As with many English, Bird felt that Indian people left alone without the enlightenment of the Europeans were doomed to destroy themselves.

Bird and Postans were two of many imperialist women who contributed to the discourses of Orientalism. Their personal opinions of natives represent the attitudes of the majority of Victorian women who wrote and studied the women of the East and Africa. Below are quotes from various women whose travel journals also helped to shape Victorian attitudes towards the non-Western peoples.

Significant Quotations

Lady Mary Whortley Montague, Turkey:

I have seen all that has been called lovely either in England or Germany, and must own that I never saw anything so gloriously beautiful … I confess, though the Greek lady had before given me a great opinion of her beauty I was so struck with admiration that I could not for some time speak with her, being wholly struck taken up with gazing. (qtd in Ghose 58)

Mary Billington, India:

According to modern “emancipated” lights, the answer of a poor Mohammedan woman in Calcutta to my question as to what she regarded as the chief happiness she would desire for herself might seem a contracted one. “To see my husband happy, and to know that what I have cooked and done for him has helped to make him so; to see my sons grow up as men, honest and strong, and to know that my daughters are well married” — is in my view a praiseworthy domestic ideal, enough even when set beside the possibilities of a bank holiday on Hampstead Heath.  (qtd in Ghose 65)

Mary Carpenter, India:

In England, such girls would be generally intended for domestic service, and prepared for its duties while at school. I was informed, however, that such can rarely be the case in India, owing to the universal employment of men in the household occupations with us exclusively appropriate to women; it would not, therefore, be safe for a young girl to be placed as a servant in the family. The girls are usually married when about fifteen or sixteen to native converts, and it is of importance that they should be prepared to be good wives and mothers of families … The singing is sweet, and in other respect this school gave me satisfactory proof that, under good female instruction, Hindoo girls are quite equal to their English sisters. (qtd in Ghose 117)

H.H. Princess Marie Louise, Gold Coast, Africa:

The cloth is draped over the left shoulder, leaving the right arm and shoulder bare, and hangs down in heavy folds resembling a Roman toga. When an African, be he chief or otherwise, speaks to one of high or royal rank, he bares his left shoulder, removes his crown or fillet from his head and takes off his sandals. A chief’s ornaments, anklets, rings and bracelets, are very beautiful and of pure Ashanti gold, strange and rare in design and of the best native workmanship. (qtd in Romero 163)

Hitherto the young African desirous and keen for higher education has had to seek his training overseas, in surroundings alien to those amongst which he must ultimately live and work, thus exposing himself to the danger of growing out of touch with his own race during the most important period of his intellectual development. (qtd in Romero 165)

Anne Louise Dundas, Tanganyika, Africa:

As the entertainment at this stage is growing rather thin, and our host appears somewhat anxious and weary, the European ladies adjourn by invitation to view their Hindu sisters, hidden from vulgar male curiosity … Everywhere about the floor of the inner sanctum lie wee brown babies, sleeping peacefully in their stiff, gold-lace caps, looking not unlike luscious chocolate drops decorated by a French confectioner.  (qtd in Romero 115)

Joan Rosita Forbes, East Africa:

As soon as a married couple arrive at a suitable age they are entitled to a portion of the family land, sufficiently large for its products to support them. This is chosen by arbiters appointed by the district, within whose bounds the husband has the right to cut sufficient wood for the construction of his house. Friends and relations carry this material to the appointed site. (Forbes quoted in Romero 144)

Miss John Gray, Canton:

The courtesy of the Chinese is very great. You feel on entering one of their houses that their great desire is to please you and that their whole attention is given to you as a guest. Henry says when he has called a house of mourning, in which, according to Chinese custom, the seats of the chairs are covered with blue, a servant has been called to bring a red covering to place on the chair intended for him, as a Chinese gentleman consider it is not kind to make his friends mourn for his particular loss. (qtd in Robinson 300)

Lady Sheil, Persia:

Here then we are fairly launched on the monotonous current of life in Persia. To a man the existence is tiresome enough, but to a woman it is still more dreary. The former has the resource of his occupation, the sports of the field, the gossip and the scandal of the town, in which he must join whether he likes to or not; and finally, Persian visiting cannot be altogether neglected, and if freely entered into, is alone a lavish consumer of time. With a woman it is otherwise. She cannot move abroad without being thickly veiled; she cannot amuse herself by shopping in the bazaars, owing to the attention she would attract unless attired in Persian garments. This is precluded by the inconvenience of the little shoes hardly covering half the foot, with a small heel three inches high in the middle of the sole.  (qtd in Robinson 174-175)

Works Cited

  • Blunt, Alison. Travel, Gender, and Imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa. New York: The Guilford Press, 1994.
  • Ghose, Indira. Women Travelers In Colonial India: The Power of the Female Gaze. Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Romero, Patricia. Women’s Voices on West Africa. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
  • Robinson, Jane. Unsuitable For Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travelers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • Stevenson, Catherine Barnes. Victorian Women Travel Writers in Africa. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.

Related Sites

Victorian Women Writers

Author: Aziza Ahmed, Fall 1998   Last edited: May 2012