Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 11 : 4 April 2011
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.
         L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.



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New Historicism in Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines

Bhanumati Mishra, M.Phil., Ph.D. Research Scholar

Amitav Ghosh

History in Creative Literature - Writings of Amitav Ghosh

Focusing upon New Historicism as an element of text and history in literary writings, I wish to elaborate on the historicist approach to literature as used by the contemporary Indian English writer, Amitav Ghosh, who has won many accolades for his fiction which is intertwined with history. What better reference can one give than his second novel The Shadow Lines.

Amitav Ghosh's success as a historical novelist owes much to the distinctiveness of his well researched narrative. It brings a bygone era and vanished experiences to life through vividly realized detail. Ghosh's fiction is characterized by strong themes that may be sometimes identified as historical novels. His themes involve emigration, exile, cultural displacement and uprooting. He illuminates the basic ironies, deep seated ambiguities and existential dilemmas of human condition. The narrator is very much like the chronicler Pimen in Pushkin's drama Boris Godonow. But unlike Pushkin's Pimen Amitav Ghosh is not a passive witness to all that happens in his presence, and absence. He is the very soul of the happenings, he connects the various clauses of life lived in Calcuttta, London, Dhaka and elsewhere.

The Shadow Lines

The Shadow Lines cover page

Ghosh's second novel, The Shadow Lines, was published in 1988, four years after the sectarian violence that shook New Delhi in the aftermath of the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi's assassination. The novel probes the various facets of violence and the extent to which its fiery arms reach under the guise of fighting for freedom.

Ghosh's treatment of violence in Calcutta and in Dhaka in this novel is valid even today. Answers still evade the questions which he poses about freedom, about the very real yet non-existing lines which divide nations, people, and families.

In The Shadow Lines, the narrator recalls with Proustian precision, the people and events that dominated his childhood in Calcutta in the '60s, and later in London. The mystery at the tale's heart concerns his Uncle Tridib's fate in the city of Dhaka during the Khulna (East Pakistan) riots in 1964 which resulted in the outbreak of communal riots on 10 January in Kolkata (West Bengal). But, the effect of that crucial time does not unfold until nearly twenty years later.

Such delayed understanding is the fuel that powers Ghosh's quiet, forceful writing, in which detail and memory are shown to shape our lives as effectively as events of global importance. Examining connectedness and separation, the author uses the fate of nations to offer observations about a profound human condition.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Bhanumati Mishra, M.Phil., Ph.D. Research Scholar
MG Kashi Vidyapith
Varanasi 221002
Uttar Pradesh

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