Gun Island - Amitav Ghosh
Amitav Ghosh’s latest novel, Gun Island, traces familiar crosscultural patterns evident in his earlier novels. There are journeys by land and water, diaspora and migration, experiences aboard ships, the world of animals and sea-creatures. Ghosh foregrounds environmental issues like climate change and the danger to fish from chemical waste dumped into rivers by factories, concerns that carry over from earlier books like The Hungry Tide and The Great Derangement.
Gun Island describes the quest of Deen, a scholar and collector of rare books, who returns from New York, his city of domicile, to the Sunderbans in West Bengal to unravel the mystery and legend of a seventeenth-century merchant, Bonduki Sada-gar, translated “The Gun Merchant,” and his persecution by Manasa Devi, mythical goddess of snakes. In a talk held in New Delhi after the release of the novel, Ghosh stated that the merchant “was a trope for trade.” The merchant and the goddess dramatize “the conflict between profit and the world.” In the novel, the goddess pursues the merchant to make him aware of other realities like the animal world: “Humans—driven, as was the Merchant, by the quest of profit—would recognize no restraint in relation to other living things.”
We learn that the old Arabic name for Venice was al-Bunduqevya, which is also the name for guns. Deen concludes that the name Bonduki Sadagar did not perhaps mean the Gun Merchant but the Merchant who went to Venice. When Deen travels to Venice to research further on the Gun Merchant, he discovers that many Bangladeshis are being employed as illegal migrant labor. Their hazardous journey across the Middle East and Africa and the strong, even militant opposition to their presence in the city by Italian authorities form a major segment of the second part of the novel, contrasting with the Gun Merchant’s past, prosperous journey to Venice (Rita Joshi - World Literature Today).
Genre: Novel, Cli-fi (Climate Fiction)
- What is Cli-fi (Climate Fiction)?
- Climate fiction (sometimes shortened as cli-fi) is literature that deals with climate change and global warming. Not necessarily speculative in nature, works may take place in the world as we know it or in the near future. The genre frequently includes science fiction and dystopian or utopian themes, imagining the potential futures based on how humanity responds to the impacts of climate change. Technologies such as climate engineering or climate adaptation practices often feature prominently in works exploring their impacts on society. Climate fiction is distinct from petrofiction which deals directly with the petroleum culture and economy. (To read more, open this Wikipedia link)
- Brief History of Cli-fi : Freelance writer Dan Bloom coined the term cli-fi in 2011 in a press release for Jim Laughter’s Polar City Red, a novel set amid climate refugees in a future Alaska. Today, Bloom publishes The Cli-Fi Report, an online resource serving all things climate fiction. From his home in Taiwan, he told Means & Matters he sees cli-fi as an urgent genre, a route to “wake people up via storytelling.”
Characters and Summary of 'Gun Island
1. Characters and Summary - 1 | Sundarbans | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
2. Characters and Summary - 2 | USA | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
3. Summary - 3 | Venice | Part 2 of Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
Thematic Study of 'Gun Island
1. Etymological Mystery | Title of the Novel | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
2. Part I - Historification of Myth & Mythification of History | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
Part II- Historification of Myth & Mythification of History | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh (Click to watch video)
Part III - Historification of Myth & Mythification of History | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh (Click to watch video)
3. Climate Change | The Great Derangement | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
4. Migration | Human Trafficking | Refugee Crisis | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh
Check your understanding: Appear in Online Test
Worksheets for Flipped Classroom Activities:
- 'Gun Island' Worksheet - 1: Use PDF of novel and ChatGPT (Open AI) for this activity.
- 'Gun Island' Worksheet - 2: Use PDF copy of novel, Open AI Chat GPT and Google Translate for this activity.
- The Objectives of these worksheets: (Click to open pdf)
Points to Ponder:
- How does this novel develop your understanding of a rather new genre known as 'cli-fi'?
- How does Amitav Ghosh use myth of Gun Merchant 'Bonduki Sadagar' and Manasa Devi to initiate discussion on the issue of Climate Change and Migration/Refugee crisis / Human Trafficking?
- How does Amitav Ghosh make use of 'etymology' of common words to sustain mystery and suspense in the narrative?
- There are many Italian words in the novel. Click here to view the list of words. Have you tried to translate these words into English or Hindi with the help of Google Translate App? If so, how is Machine Translation helping in proper translation of Italian words into English and Hindi?
- What are your views on the use of myth and history in the novel Gun Island to draw attention of the reader towards contemporary issues like climate change and migration?
- Is there any connection between 'The Great Derangement' and 'Gun Island'?
Additional Reading resources:
- Towards a post(colonial)human culture: Revisiting Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island as a fall of Eurocentric humanism by Saikat Chakraborty
- Climate and Culture in Crisis - Gun Island
- Surreal Novel about Climate Change and Migration - Gun Island
- The Era of Environmental Derangement: Witnessing Climate Crisis in Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island
With ‘Gun Island,’ Amitav Ghosh turns global crises into engaging fiction