Sunday, 23 January 2022

Gun Island

 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)

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. Historification of Myth & Mythification of History | Gun Island | Amitav Ghosh


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


Points to Ponder:

  1. How does this novel develop your understanding of a rather new genre known as 'cli-fi'?
  2. 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?
  3. How does Amitav Ghosh make use of 'etymology' of common words to sustain mystery and suspense in the narrative?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. Is there any connection between 'The Great Derangement' and 'Gun Island'? 

Additional Reading resources:

Q & A Session:


Thematic Study

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