Review of Monali Chatterjee’s presentation on
Gun Island written by Amitav Ghosh
- Sunita Shetty
At The Book Club Pune session on Sunday 7th February 2021, Monali Chatterjee led the discussion of the book Gun Island by the Jnanpith award winning author, Amitav Ghosh. Monali did a wonderful job of introducing the listeners to Ghosh and his characters and the legend he based the story on as well as the various themes that the author highlights in the book.
Gun Island deals with two of the biggest issues of the current moment: climate change and human migration. The story is a blend of ancient myth and folklore in a contemporary world disrupted by global warming and climate change. It begins with a visit back home to Kolkata by the narrator and events that lead to the mention of a Bengali legend, of a gun trader and the Goddess Manasa Devi. The story moves from the mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans to a Los Angeles engulfed by forest fires to a gradually sinking Venice. Ghosh uses mythology to open our eyes to the enormity of the changes that are upon us.
The discussion that followed the review was varied and interesting. The listeners were keen on knowing Amitav Ghosh’s cues from mythology. While some disagreed with the author’s attempt at covering so many topics - magic, myth, history, science, zoology, etymology - others felt that Ghosh did a wonderful job in highlighting the interconnectedness of everything. A wonderful evening spent on a wonderful book!
- Prashant K. Sinha
Dr. Monali Chatterjee’s talk on Amitava Ghosh’s Gun Island was comprehensive in its coverage of different aspects of the novel. Beginning with a brief reference to the background of the author and his works, it highlighted his concern here with the disturbance of the ecological balance. After pointing out the picaresque pattern in the novel, she provided a summary of the events in which she recounted the stories of Deen, Piya,Tipu and Cinta and how they all converge on the legend of Bonduki Sadagar who refused to yield to Manasa Devi, the deity of Snakes. Deen visits her shrine in Sundarbans and gathers more information about the plight of the Sadagar including his capture by pirates, enslavement, release and finally being bitten by one of Manasa Devi’s snakes.
Then Monali discussed the texture of the novel and pointed out that it is bilingual having been written in both English and Bengali. She dealt with the theme of the equation between human journeys and animal migration whose awareness leads to environmental consciousness. The many ravages of nature including wildfires and floods are manifestations of the disturbance in the ecology of the planet . Then she showed the relation between ecology and myths in the work.
The discussion that followed dealt chiefly with the novelist’s warning about natural devastation on the earth if we tamper with its ecology; magical realism as a narrative mode in Ghosh; and the concern with memory. The questions were adequately answered at the end.