AMITAV GHOSH SEA OF POPPIES PDF

This terrific novel, the first volume in a projected trilogy, unfolds in north India and the Bay of Bengal in on the eve of the British attack on the Chinese ports known as the first opium war. In Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh assembles from different corners of the world sailors, marines and passengers for the Ibis, a slaving schooner now converted to the transport of coolies and opium. In bringing his troupe of characters to Calcutta and into the open water, Ghosh provides the reader with all manner of stories, and equips himself with the personnel to man and navigate an old-fashioned literary three-decker. He begins in the villages of eastern Bihar with Deeti, soon to be widowed; her addicted husband, who works at the British opium factory at Ghazipur; and Kalua, a low-caste carter of colossal strength and resource. Moving downstream, we meet a bankrupt landowner, Raja Neel Rattan; an American sailor, Zachary; Paulette, a young Frenchwoman, and her Bengali foster-brother Jodu; Benjamin Burnham, an unscrupulous British merchant, and his Bengali agent, Baboo Nob Kissin; and every style of nautch girl, sepoy and lascar.

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Amitav Ghosh's eighth doorstop of a novel is set in his native Calcutta where, in , the British East India Company's lucrative opium trade is feeling the pinch from Canton's embargo on poppy imports. Self-made merchant Ben Burnham has purchased the Ibis, an old slaver, to ply the Chinese territories with narcotics from Calcutta, and he frequently moralises on his divine right to force opium on the Chinese. In the opening pages of this enthralling saga, Deeti, a poppy farmer's wife bathing in the holy Ganga miles inland from Calcutta, hallucinates a tall-masted ocean-going ship, which she realises is linked to her destiny.

When her poppy-raddled husband dies, Deeti escapes the sati ritual of immolation on his pyre by fleeing downstream. At the other end of the social hierarchy, Calcuttan aristocrat Neel Rattan's entire estate has fallen in hock to Burnham's aggressive profiteering, and — unthinkably worse — trumped-up charges of fraud have debased his reputation and caste. Orphaned Paulette Lambert, taken in by Burnham after her atheist father died, puts up with her guardian's civilising Christian charity as well as his less orthodox peccadilloes.

More exciting to her independent spirit is Zachary Reid, a mulatto freedman from Baltimore and the resilient second mate on Burnham's new ship, whom Paulette meets socially. This discreet infatuation falls into the smooth swell of Ghosh's brimming and buoyant novel, meeting the confluence of Neel's and Deeti's fates as the Ibis sets sail.

If these fluent narratives and tributary sub-plots give structure to Sea of Poppies, maritime Calcutta's polyglot throng and the ribald "ship pijjin" give it a rich flavour.

If the specifics are obscure, the verve and sense shine through. Captin-bugger blongi poo-shoo-foo No can chow-chow tiffin. Allo tim do chhee-chhee, pee-pee. Plenty smelly in Captin cabin. The exotic, swaggering cadence of Ghosh's port argot has touches of Conrad but more strongly recalls the slave-trade pidgin of Barry Unsworth's Booker Prize-winning epic Sacred Hunger.

Where Unsworth's below-decks detail evoked harrowing conditions, however, Ghosh's gentler tale kindles an adventurous optimism in defiance of its protagonists' privations. As in The Glass Palace, Ghosh's panoramic novel of Burma's abrupt engagement with modernity, Sea of Poppies considers the social and political impact of colonial force majeure on native institutions, but tacks closer to romantic adventure than gritty historical realism.

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Amitav Ghosh's eighth doorstop of a novel is set in his native Calcutta where, in , the British East India Company's lucrative opium trade is feeling the pinch from Canton's embargo on poppy imports. Self-made merchant Ben Burnham has purchased the Ibis, an old slaver, to ply the Chinese territories with narcotics from Calcutta, and he frequently moralises on his divine right to force opium on the Chinese. In the opening pages of this enthralling saga, Deeti, a poppy farmer's wife bathing in the holy Ganga miles inland from Calcutta, hallucinates a tall-masted ocean-going ship, which she realises is linked to her destiny. When her poppy-raddled husband dies, Deeti escapes the sati ritual of immolation on his pyre by fleeing downstream. At the other end of the social hierarchy, Calcuttan aristocrat Neel Rattan's entire estate has fallen in hock to Burnham's aggressive profiteering, and — unthinkably worse — trumped-up charges of fraud have debased his reputation and caste. Orphaned Paulette Lambert, taken in by Burnham after her atheist father died, puts up with her guardian's civilising Christian charity as well as his less orthodox peccadilloes. More exciting to her independent spirit is Zachary Reid, a mulatto freedman from Baltimore and the resilient second mate on Burnham's new ship, whom Paulette meets socially.

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