Summer 2003 • Vol. XXV No. 3/4 Nonfiction |

The Greatest Sorrow: Times of Joy Recalled in Wretchedness

… Nessun maggior dolore che ricordarsi del tempo felice ne la miseria …… There is no greater sorrow than to recall our times of joy in wretchedness …—Dante, The Inferno1 On July 27, 2001, landing in Colombo's Katunayake airport, I saw, at first hand, how fragile a machine an aircraft is. My plane landed on a runway that was flanked with wreckage on either side. Through the scarred glass of my window, I spotted a blackened pile of debris that ended in the intact tail section of a plane. The shape of the vanished fuselage was etched into the tarmac like the outline of a cigar that has burned itself slowly to extinction, leaving its ring standing in its ashes. Then there was another and still another, the charred remains lying scattered around the apron like a boxful of half-smoked Havanas arranged around the edges of an ebony table. It was just four days since a small suicide squad of Tamil Tiger guerillas had succeeded in entering Colombo's carefully guarded Katuna

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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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