Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of our Times

Front Cover
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Apr 23, 2007 - Literary Collections - 320 pages
1 Review
"An uncannily honest writer." —New York Times Book Review

The novelist and journalist Amitav Ghosh has offered extraordinary firsthand accounts of pivotal world events over the past twenty years. He is an essential voice in forums like The Nation, the New York Times, the New Republic, Granta, and The New Yorker. Incendiary Circumstances brings together the finest of these pieces for the first time—including many never before published in the States—in a compelling chronicle of the turmoil of our times. Incendiary Circumstances begins with Ghosh’s arrival in the Andaman and Nicobar islands just days after the devastation of the 2005 tsunami. We then travel back to September 11, 2001, as Ghosh retrieves his young daughter from school, sick with the knowledge that she must witness the kind of firestorm that has been in the background of his everyday life since childhood. With a prescience born of experience, Ghosh warned decades ago of the dangerous rise of religious extremism. In his travels he has stood on an icy mountaintop on the contested border between India and Pakistan, interviewed Pol Pot’s sister-in-law in Cambodia, shared the elation of Egyptians when Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize, and stood with his threatened Sikh neighbors through the riots following Indira Gandhi's assassination. With intelligence and authentic sympathy, he "illuminates the human drama behind the headlines" (Publishers Weekly). Incendiary Circumstances is unparalleled testimony of an era defined by the ravages of politics and nature.

Amitav Ghosh is acclaimed for his political journalism and his travel writing. The New York Times Book Review called his travelogue, In An Antique Land, "remarkable . . . rivals anything by the masters of social realism in modern Egyptian literature." He is also the best-selling author of four novels, including The Hungry Tide and The Glass Palace, which has been published in eighteen foreign editions. Ghosh has won France's prestigious Prix Medici Etranger, India's Sahitya Akademi Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Educated in South Asia, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom, Ghosh holds a doctorate in social anthropology from Oxford. He divides his time between Harvard University, where he is a visiting professor, and his homes in Kolkata, India, and Brooklyn, New York.

Praise for Incendiary Circumstances

"This absorbing collection of essays by the novelist, journalist, and travel writer Ghosh . . . covers some two decades of catastrophe and upheaval, from sectarian violence in his native India during the 1980s through the September 11 attacks . . . to the recent Indian Ocean tsunami. With an eye for evocative detail, he illuminates the human dramas behind the headlines: the plight of tsunami refugees trying to rebuild their lives and finances after every bank record and piece of ID is lost to the waves; the courage of ordinary Indians protecting their Sikh neighbors from rampaging Hindu mobs . . . He is equally engaging when he turns from current affairs to literary essays on, say, the international culture of novel reading or the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali. Written in luminous prose with unusual understanding . . . an insightful look at a chaotic world."—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Praise for Amitav Ghosh

"Ghosh is adept at delineating the complicated crosscurrents of emerging national independence movements. He is even more impressive at portraying the different ways in which individuals react to the turmoil, hardship, and disorientation wrought by war.”—Wall Street Journal

"A wonderful hybrid of travel writing, reporting, historical analysis, and memoir – in other words, the kind of piece [Ghosh] writes better than almost anyone else.”—Washington Times

What people are saying - Write a review

INCENDIARY CIRCUMSTANCES: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Travels in antique—and heavily armed—lands, many of them on a collision course with the American Empire.Calcutta-born novelist (The Hungry Tide, 2005, etc.) and journalist Ghosh opens this ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bezoar44 - LibraryThing

A collection of essays. A few are lighter mood pieces; most are substantive and nuanced. Standout essays include 'Countdown' (1998), on the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan; 'The March of ... Read full review


The Town by the Sea
Imperial Temptations
September 11
The Greatest Sorrow Times of Joy Recalled in Wretchedness
The Ghat of the Only World Agha Shahid Ali in Brooklyn
The March of the Novel Through History The Testimony of My Grandfathers Bookcase
The Fundamentalist Challenge
The Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi
An Egyptian in Baghdad
Dancing in Cambodia
The Human Comedy in Cairo
Tibetan Dinner
Four Corners
The Imam and the Indian

Petrofiction The Oil Encounter and the Novel
At Large in Burma

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956 and raised and educated in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, Egypt, India, and the United Kingdom, where he received his Ph.D. in social anthropology from Oxford. Acclaimed for fiction, travel writing, and journalism, his books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In an Antique Land, and Dancing in Cambodia. Ghosh has won France’s Prix Medici Etranger, India’s prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Pushcart Prize. He now divides his time between Harvard University, where he is a visiting professor, and his homes in India and Brooklyn, New York.

Bibliographic information