Amitav Ghosh’s ‘Flood of Fire’

Laila Lalami in The New York Times:

AmitavGhosh, the author of seven previous novels and five books of nonfiction, is a writer with a passion for language. He doesn’t simply create a world, he delights in giving it the truest words. In his prose, a half-Indian, half-Chinese opium addict sounds completely different from an upper-class Parsee widow, who in turn sounds completely different from a British woman who has been raised in India. (In one amusing episode, the British woman comes up with an impressive array of terms for sex organs or sex acts. She calls a slack penis “a sleeping bawhawder,” masturbation is referred to as “soaping the sepoy” and cunnilingus becomes “making a chutney.”)

Ghosh’s novel is also concerned with how the nascent free trade of the region has brought about a major conflict, which is resolved through military force. Watching one of the battles of the Opium War, Neel wonders: “How was it possible that a small number of men, in the span of a few hours or minutes, could decide the fate of millions of people yet unborn? How was it possible that the outcome of those brief moments could determine who would rule whom, who would be rich or poor, master or servant, for generations to come?”

More here.