Thursday, January 13, 2011

Books At Twelve-Ten, 2011

Books At Twelve-Ten discussed The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh on Tuesday, January 11th. Five people were present for the novel set in remote islands near Bangladesh, presented in two sections: Part One: The Ebb: Bhata, and Part Two: The Flood: Jawar. The novel was written in English by Ghosh.

Our organizer set about to briefly summarize.

My comment - that one should smile at the idea of summarizing – was somewhat justified. The book has complicated plot lines that intermingle. It is one story. In Bhata characters are separate and everything continues for them in alternating small episodes. In Jawar an important plot line (that is, I think, the heart of the novel - a diary kept in Bangalese in the 1970's) – ends. This creates a new section, for there are a hundred pages left in the novel. The character Kanai, who is translating the diary, finishes reading.

The titles of the episodes carry the story along. Our organizer asked about the theme of words. A small episode in each part is titled, Words. In the first Words people of two languages exchange basic words for things when they meet and will work together. In the second Words is a discussion between two characters, Kanai, the translator, and the wife of a fisherman (who is a major character). She has attained education to be a nurse, and says to Kanai that words are nothing but air.

To instruct her, Kanai follows with provocative speech like a proposition. And she becomes very angry. When the Book Group discussed The Hungry Tide and the portrait of Kanai, a well-educated and sophisticated individual, together with the diary Kanai is reading, we met themes of violence against women and against the poor and helpless.

Women from the women's union express doubt about Kanai's authority. When Kanai goes on a water expedition as interpreter, one tries to convince him that for him the trip is a whim and that he is a danger.

At page 179 is a description of bird and crab deaths. (In recent weeks there have been reports of bird and fish deaths in the news.) One character, Piya, is in the area to study dolphins. Described are tigers and crocodiles; along with themes of danger from animals are the mysterious dolphins. The themes of violence are described from a context of achievement by women.

No comments: