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Between the Covers Podcast

Amitav Ghosh : Smoke and Ashes

For nearly twenty years Amitav Ghosh has been writing about opium and the opium trade, first in his fictional Ibis trilogy, and now in nonfiction with Smoke & Ashes. This is a story that brings together many of the preoccupying themes from Ghosh’s career: the legacies of colonialism and extractive colonial economies, the intelligence of plants and the ways plants are actors and agents within history, and the strategies that can be gleaned from the story of opium in today’s battle to address climate change. But given that he has now engaged with the opium trade in both nonfiction and fiction, we also discuss another of his interests: the factors that led to the rise of realism in fiction, that shaped and defined what we.call the literary novel today. It turns out what shaped the realist literary novel are the same forces that have led to our opium and fossil fuel addiction, and we look at both.

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