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Renowned Indian Novelist Amitav Ghosh Coming to Northwestern

Award-winning author to lecture on writing, travel and transnational issues

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April 14, 2014 | by Storer H. Rowley

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Renowned Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh will visit Northwestern University for two weeks starting Monday (April 14) to teach undergraduate and graduate student/faculty seminars and to give two public lectures on writing about polyglot societies and traveling the opium route in Asia.

Internationally celebrated for his profound, compelling treatment of diasporic themes about people scattered and stranded across the world, the award-winning Ghosh has written seven novels and two volumes of nonfiction. His works have been translated into more than 20 languages.

He is well known for “Shadow Lines” and “In An Antique Land,” both of which garnered both critical and popular acclaim. His latest work is “The Ibis Trilogy,” two novels of which have been published: “Sea of Poppies” (2008) and “River of Smoke” (2011). The first of these volumes was shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2008.

The visit is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication and the Sinha Kikeri Foundation -- in association with the Art Institute of Chicago and various departments and schools at Northwestern. They include The Graduate School, the department of communication studies in the School of Communication, the Center for the Writing Arts and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ department of English, department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Asian Studies Program, as well as the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Northwestern and for the Indian and South Asian community in Chicago and others,” said Dilip Gaonkar, associate professor and director of the Center for Global Culture and Communication at Northwestern.

“Amitav Ghosh is a world-renowned author, lecturer and teacher, and he is truly a poster child for transnational literature,” Gaonkar added.

During his time in the Chicago area, Ghosh will offer four seminars and two public lectures. They include:

  • Two undergraduate student seminars on “The Craft and Philosophy of Writing,” to be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. April 15 and from 4 to 5:30 p.m. April 22 in the Hagstrum Room, University Hall 201, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. (Note: Space is limited, and seminars are for undergraduates only; contact Stacy Oliver at a-oliver@northwestern.edu.)
  • Two graduate student and faculty seminars, with dinner, on “Transnational Imaginaries,” to be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 16 in Scott Hall, Room 201, and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 23 in the Alumni Center on the University’s Evanston campus.
  • A public lecture on the topic “From Bombay to Canton: Traveling the Opium Route to 19th-Century China,” at 6 p.m. April 17 in Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago, in Chicago.
  • A public lecture on the topic “Speaking of Babel: The Risks and Rewards of Writing About Polyglot Societies,” at 6 p.m. April 24 at McCormick Tribune Center Forum on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. A reception will follow this final lecture. (For more information, email jdelam@u.northwestern.edu.)

The Ghosh visit has been made possible through a significant amount of donations from the Chicago-area’s strong South Asian community. The visit will be an opportunity to increase ties and cultural cooperation between the South Asian community in Chicago and Northwestern University as well as the Art Institute of Chicago.

Northwestern’s Center for Global Culture and Communication sees Ghosh’s visit as an important opportunity to help link the products and practitioners of art and culture in India with an admiring South Asian American community in the Chicago area. It also will allow the Northwestern center to involve leaders of the South Asian community in the planning of more systematic and long-term South Asia-centered cultural programming for the future.

The center’s previous events and programming -- including Shyam Benegal Films: a retrospective (spring 2002), Six Bollywood Classics (January 2003) and Tagore/Ray Film Screening and Symposium (April 2012) -- have afforded the organization the chance to forge valuable links with the Indian community.

Ghosh has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Prix Medicis, the Crossword Book Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Sahitya Akademi Award.