Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Opium opus

Amitav Ghosh on his new novel, The Sea of Poppies ('The Ghazipur And Patna Opium Factories Together Produced The Wealth Of Britain'):

The bulk of the opium came from Bengal and Bihar, and no book has been written on it. I had to spend a lot of time in archives digging up original sources, finding letters and journals of opium traders. My description of the Ghazipur opium factory came from a chance discovery in the British Museum of a book written by the guy who was the head of the Ghazipur factory, a Scotsman. He wrote a book about it describing it in excruciating detail to serve as a tourist guide to the opium factory. The Ghazipur and Patna opium factories between them produced the wealth of Britain. It is astonishing to think of it but the Empire was really founded on opium.

It is an endearing interview. I liked this very much:

I am not someone who sought publicity or who would feel comfortable being like one of these mega celebrities. But as I always tell young writers, it's a great mistake to think there's only one pattern of doing things. The book industry is unlike, say, the car industry or the air-conditioner industry.

In the world of books, everything has to be different. It's like saris. No one buys a sari if someone else is wearing it. And similarly, no one buys a book which is like another one. It applies to writers as well. People recognise that it's the individuality of the writer that creates their works.

No comments: