Spring 1998 • Vol. XX No. 2 NonfictionApril 1, 1998 |

The March of the Novel through History: The Testimony of My Grandfather’s Bookcase

As a child I spent my holidays in my grandfather's house in Calcutta, and it was there that I began to read. My grandfather's house was a chaotic and noisy place, populated by a large number of uncles, aunts, cousins, and dependents, some of them bizarre, some merely eccentric, but almost all excitable in the extreme. Yet I learned much more about reading in this house than I ever did in school. The walls of my grandfather's house were lined with rows of books, neatly stacked in glass-fronted bookcases. The bookcases were prominently displayed in a large hall that served, among innumerable other functions, also those of playground, sitting room, and hallway. The bookcases towered above us, looking down, eavesdropping on every conversation, keeping track of family gossip, glowering upon quarreling children. Very rarely were the bookcases stirred out of their silent vigil: I was perhaps the only person in the house who raided them regularly, and I was in Calcutta for no more than

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Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He is the author of one book of non-fiction, a collection of essays and eight novels, of which the most recent is Flood of Fire. His books have won prizes in India, Europe and Myanmar and he has been awarded honorary degrees by the Sorbonne, Paris, and by Queens College, New York. He divides his time between Brooklyn, Goa and Kolkata.

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