ONE OF India’s leading contemporary writers in English, Amitav Ghosh, has been honoured with this year’s Jnanpith Award, a literary award given to an author for “outstanding contribution towards literature”, Bharatiya Jnanpith announced on Friday. Ghosh is the first Indian writer in English to have been chosen for this honour.
“Amitav Ghosh is a path-breaking novelist. In his novels, Ghosh treads through historical settings to the modern era and weaves a space where the past connects with the present in relevant ways. His fiction is endowed with extraordinary depth and substance through his academic training as a historian and a social anthropologist,” a statement from Bharatiya Jnanpith read.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the Jnanpith selection Board chaired by eminent novelist, scholar and Jnanpith laureate Pratibha Ray.
Ghosh is known to create rich literature out of the blind spots of history, such as the forgotten Marichjhhapi massacre that he explored in The Hungry Tide (2004), or his rip-roaring Ibis trilogy that sets sail on stormy seas to look at the political economy of the opium trade between India and China. He explored the treachery of borders and maps in The Shadow Lines (1988), his much-loved novel that won him the Sahitya Akademi award.
The writer, in a tweet, said he was “honoured and humbled”.
In another tweet responding to a fan, he said, “This is an amazing day for me. I never thought I would find myself on this list, with some of the writers I most admire.”
Born in Kolkata in 1956, the 62-year-old author currently lives in New York with his wife Deborah Baker.
Ghosh, who spent his formative years in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria.
His most recent book, The Great Derangement; Climate Change and the Unthinkable, a work of non-fiction was released in 2016.
Ghosh is also recipient of the Padma Shri. Some of the biggest Indian writers have been awarded with the Jnanpith, including literary icons Krishna Sobti, Kedarnath Singh, Shrilal Shukla, Nirmal Verma, Girish Karnad, Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Pritam and UR Ananthamurthy.