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Caste, Colonialism And A 'Sea Of Poppies'

Amitav Ghosh's novel <em>Sea of Poppies</em> was short listed for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
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Amitav Ghosh's novel Sea of Poppies was short listed for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

At its heart, Amitav Ghosh's epic novel, Sea of Poppies, is a book about seeking freedom and renewal in breathtaking, daring ways.

Written in a polyglot language of 19th-century sailors — where Hindi and English mixed freely — the novel tells the stories of a disparate group of seafarers aboard a former slave ship that has been retrofitted for the opium trade and its human cargo.

Ghosh is a native of Calcutta and speaks five languages. His love for India rings through here — as do his verbal gifts. His efforts are swashbuckling, and his ship, the Ibis, is the most pulsing, heart-rending literary ship to plough the seas since Ishmael climbed the riggings of the Pequod. After a while, you'll be rocking between all these languages, too — and hoping the Ibis casts off soon for volume No. 2 of this trilogy.

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Longtime listeners recognize Jacki Lyden's voice from her frequent work as a substitute host on NPR. As a journalist who has been with NPR since 1979, Lyden regards herself first and foremost as a storyteller and looks for the distinctive human voice in a huge range of national and international stories.