Historical Novelist to Discuss Opium Trade of 19th-Century Asia
Bengali Indian author Amitav Ghosh will visit UT Dallas to discuss his acclaimed work, which explores the histories of South and Southeast Asia.
Ghosh will speak at 7:30 p.m. today as part of the Anlin Ku Lecture Series and will focus on Flood of Fire, the final volume in his Ibis trilogy, which delves into the trade of opium between India, China and Britain in the early 19th century before the start of the Opium War.
“I began to write about some characters who might have been among the first people to leave India, and immediately I came up against this immense canvas that lies behind relations between India, Britain and China,” Ghosh said in an interview with The Guardian in May. “It was essentially all about opium, and it was clear this was not a story I was going tell in a single book.”
The previous volumes, Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke, follow a disparate crew of sailors, servants, convicts and opium traders on the schooner Ibis making a voyage from Calcutta to Mauritania.
Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, said he chose Ghosh as this year’s guest speaker because of his ability to combine eloquence with philosophic depth.
“Ghosh's Ibis trilogy demonstrates the power of stories to bring the past to life in ways that challenge us to re-examine the present and perhaps create a more humane future,” Kratz said.
Ghosh is the author of five books of nonfiction and eight novels. Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, which recognizes best original novel, written in English and published in the U.K. In 2010, he was the joint winner, alongside Margaret Atwood, of a Dan David Award for innovative and interdisciplinary research. He has sold more than 3 million books worldwide, with his work translated into 33 languages.
“Ghosh's Ibis trilogy demonstrates the power of stories to bring the past to life in ways that challenge us to re-examine the present and perhaps create a more humane future”
“The UT Dallas community has an extraordinary opportunity this week to hear two writers who combine research with imagination to explore profoundly important ideas,” Kratz said. “Today, Amitav Ghosh, the greatest historical novelist of this century, will speak about the abiding impact of the 19th-century opium trade and Opium Wars. Tomorrow evening's ATEC lecturer, P.W. Singer, has employed fiction to describe the impact of advanced technology on the ‘future history’ of warfare.”
Ghosh’s other work includes The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines and The Calcutta Chromosome, and he has taught literature at Columbia University, Harvard University and the University of Delhi, among other institutions.
Ghosh received his PhD in social anthropology from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delhi.
This event is co-sponsored by UT Dallas’ Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].