Amitav Ghosh The Hungry Tide

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Inhaltsangabe zu „The Hungry Tide“ von Amitav Ghosh

A rich, exotic saga set in Calcutta and in the vast archipelago of islands in the Bay of Bengal.
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  • Rezension zu "The Hungry Tide" von Amitav Ghosh

    The Hungry Tide
    Ein LovelyBooks-Nutzer

    Ein LovelyBooks-Nutzer

    11. September 2009 um 21:36

    TRANSLATION, LANGUAGE AND UNDERSTANDING “Kanai was still in his uncle’s study, reading, when the light above the desk flickered and went out. He lit a candle and sat still as the throbbing of the generator faded and a cloud of stillness crept slowly over the island. As he listened to its advance, it occurred to him to wonder why, in English, silence is commonly said to ‘fall’ or ‘descend’ as though it were a curtain or a knife.” (Ghosh 154) Kanai is a translator. And being one of the main characters of the book this detail opens a perspective to the novel that must lead to a distinctive discourse of language. He speaks six languages (‘dialects not included’) but is not able to decipher the language of Piya. She herself is a young woman and cetologist who is on her way to the Sundarban islands to do research on a very rare species of dolphins. Being very bad at languages, Piya later on in the book manages to get by very good just with body language or even without any need of speaking a language at all. Language and understanding does, indeed, play a very important role in the novel and for all the characters of the plot. In the end understanding is the key to human nature. Kanai is on his way to Lusibari, where his aunt Nilima wants to present him with an inheritance her husband Nirmal left for him after his death. This inheritance is some kind of notebook with diary entries of the last days of his uncle Nirmal’s life. This heritage is in one way also a substitute for his lack of communication with his wife Nilima. Travelling by train to a place called Canning, Kanai meets Piya who has already caught his sight earlier on the train platform. In the very beginning the story focuses on the plans of these two young and single human beings on their way to different preoccupations. They make some small talk with each other and Kanai invites Piya to come to Lusibari. As their ways separate, an important pier for the story is built: they will, they have to meet again. At the commence of the novel, two oppositional plots are made up, so that the reader will wait until they reconvene – and actually the short chapters spread into two different plots when Kanai and Piya separate in Canning. Problems of understanding are a principal motif in the book. They are present in many ways between the characters of the book. As we have already taken a look at Kanai, there is something much more interesting about Piya. A woman of not many words, very shy, as she says herself, comes upon a young fisherman, Fokir, whom she falls in love with unknowingly. The biggest issue for the two of them is not having a language in common. Furthermore, Fokir has a son with him, he must be married, concludes Piya – as indeed he is. The relations between women and men in the novel are based on wishes, hopes and unsaid feelings that have to be kept in silence, cannot be spoken about because of cultural circumstances and are left unspoken due to personal reasons. An example for that is Moyna, Fokir’s wife. She begs Kanai before the second trip of dolphin research to intervene in the relationship she doubtlessly sees unfolding between her husband and ‘this American’ girl. Despite this in the character of Piya the reader gets to know that there are other ways of understanding. Between Fokir and Piya already spreads an erotic affection in the first night they spend together on the boat. Maybe the impossibility to understand each other lets both of them focus on each other and what they really are. They have to concentrate on what they can decode, their movements, their pointing to objects. Another example is the relation between Nirmal and Nilima. It seems to be perfect on the outside. Even their initials create that impression. The reader can only recreate their relationship in an indirect way. Kanai reads his uncle’s notebook in order to understand what Nirmal’s hopes in his life were. In one conversation between Kanai and Nilima his aunt confirms: ‘Men like that, even when they turn their backs on their party and their comrades, can never let go of the idea: it’s the secret god that rules their hearts.’ But she also adds that Nirmal ‘seemed to want only to hurt me. Just think about it, Kanai – why else would he have insisted on leaving this notebook to you and not to me?’ (Ghosh 119). The majority of the novel deals with the problems of understanding between human relationships in the microcosm. But there is also a discourse of understanding problems playing in a macrocosm, in a global surrounding. It’s the animal welfarists wanting to protect the Sundarban islands and nature without looking at the interests of the Sundarban settlers. It is the dilemma of a place, the Sundarban forest, that is both threatened and threatening, that is overlayed with a story of three people, Kanai, Piya and – speaking in some way from the dead – Nirmal on their way of finding themselves.

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