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In An Antique Land (Granta Classics) Kindle Edition
From the Back Cover
About the Author
- ASIN : B006IOS53Q
- Publisher : Granta Books; 2nd edition (4 August 2011)
- Language : English
- File size : 1627 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 345 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 66,038 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Gosh, otherwise a novelist, spent a number of years in rural Egypt in the 1980s on a historical research trip. Since his training was in anthropology, he also made meticulous notes of his everyday environment. The result is a volume that is both travel and history writing, and both sociological and private testimony. Gosh gives us Egyptian village life in moving detail: its family clans, its festivals, its preoccupations with money, jobs, marriage. The writer was there, took the time to learn the dialect, befriended his hosts and took a genuine interest in their lives. And if he was a Hindu, this only made him an attraction among a friendly and curious public. His book shines with simple but quirky anecdotes, and with dialogues more telling than any long rendition. Meanwhile, in filigree, Gosh also unfolds the story of Abraham Ben Yiju, an eleventh-century Jewish merchant, and that of his slave and business associate from Mangalore. Ben Yiju's tale provides a certain symmetry to the author's, since, originally from North Africa, the medieval merchant lived for a long time on the Malabar coast. But it is also genuine, and Gosh takes his reader through the fascinating story of the Cairo Geniza, one of the largest troves of medieval manuscripts ever unearthed, once attached to a synagogue.
In an Antique Land is anything but opinionated. Its writing is full of reserve and gentle understanding, and nor does it condemn. Yet at the same time it is subtly subversive of certain historical commonplaces: about the contributions of Western discovery, trade, and modernity or about Jewish-Muslim antinomy, for example. The trade routes that freely joined the Mediterranean to India and beyond were destroyed by monopoly-seeking Europeans. Gosh shows us a lost world that peacefully spanned two civilizations across the Indian Ocean and, through his portrait of contemporary Egypt, he shows how it still resonates, or how its loss is still to be felt on either side. Perhaps this is not news for readers already versed into pre-modern world history. Yet even for the knowledgeable, this gem of a book is sure to be filled with discoveries.
Ghosh parallels his own sojourns in Egypt, the Malabar coast and return to Egypt, with those of Ben Yiju, who spent some twenty years in Mangalore, marrying a freed Indian slave, before returning to North Africa. Gradually pictures are built up of Egypt and India, ancient and modern. The fascinating revelations about Jewish life in medieval Egypt and the Maghreb , the close relationship between the Muslims and Jews, destroyed only in the last century, are intertwined with Ghosh's own story, a perception of Egyptian villagers through Indian eyes, and, even more interesting, their perception of the Indian catapulted into their midst. Some aspects of his culture were so alien to them that they sometimes seemed to view him as an ignorant refugee from a primitive country, rather than understanding the ignorance of their own unworldliness.
The documents Ghosh worked with provided the framework of Ben Yiju's existence. The meat was provided by Ghosh through painstaking research and logical supposition both in Egypt and in India. Most thought-provoking was his visit at the end of the book to the tomb of a Muslim saint, who, it transpired, was also a Jewish Rabbi. Certainly in the 1980s when Ghosh's visit took place, the tomb was attracting pilgrims from both the Muslim world and Israel, the latter contributing to a huge tourist industry built around the saint's annual festival. This, and the theme throughout the book of Jews and Muslims co-existing like brothers graphically demonstrated the tragedy of what has happened to this brotherhood in the last half century.
When I need inspiration, both as a reader and as a writer, I will dip into this book again and again.
There is a sub plot concerning ancient papers of a wealthy trader.ters