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The Glass Palace: A Novel
The Glass Palace: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh 0375758771 9780375758775
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The Glass Palace: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh

An absorbing story of a world in transition, brought to life through characters who love and suffer with equal intensity. J. M. Coetzee There is no denying Ghoshs command of culture and history....[He] proves a writer of supreme skill and intelligence. The Atlantic Monthly I will never forget the young and old Rajkumar, Dolly, the Princesses, the forests of teak, the wealth that made families and wars. A wonderful novel. An incredible story. Grace Paley A rich, layered epic that probes the meaning of identity and homeland a literary territory that is as resonant now, in our globalized culture, as it was when the sun never set on the British Empire. Los Angeles Times Book Review A novelist of dazzling ingenuity. San Francisco Chronicle|PART I Mandalay Chapter 1 There was only one person in the food-stall who knew exactly what that sound was that was rolling in across the plain, along the silver curve of the Irrawaddy, to the western wall of Mandalays fort. His name was Rajkumar and he was an Indian, a boy of eleven not an authority to be relied upon. The noise was unfamiliar and unsettling, a distant booming followed by low, stuttering growls. At times it was like the snapping of dry twigs, sudden and unexpected. And then, abruptly, it would change to a deep rumble, shaking the food-stall and rattling its steaming pot of soup. The stall had only two benches, and they were both packed with people, sitting pressed up against each other. It was cold, the start of central Burmas brief but chilly winter, and the sun had not risen high enough yet to burn off the damp mist that had drifted in at dawn from the river. When the first booms reached the stall there was a silence, followed by a flurry of questions and whispered answers. People looked around in bewilderment: What is it? Ba le? What can it be? And then Rajkumars sharp, excited voice cut through the buzz of speculation. English cannon, he said in his fluent but heavily accented Burmese. Theyre shooting somewhere up the river. Heading in this direction. Frowns appeared on some customers faces as they noted that it was the serving-boy who had spoken and that he was a kalaa from across the sea an Indian, with teeth as white as his eyes and skin the color of polished hardwood. He was standing in the center of the stall, holding a pile of chipped ceramic bowls. He was grinning a little sheepishly, as though embarrassed to parade his precocious knowingness. His name meant Prince, but he was anything but princely in appearance, with his oil-splashed vest, his untidily knotted longyi and his bare feet with their thick slippers of callused skin. When people asked how old he was he said fifteen, or sometimes eighteen or nineteen, for it gave him a sense of strength and power to be able to exaggerate so wildly, to pass himself off as grown and strong, in body and judgment, when he was, in fact, not much more than a child. But he could have said he was twenty and people would still have believed him, for he was a big, burly boy, taller and broader in the shoulder than many men. And because he was very dark it was hard to tell that his chin was as smooth as the palms of his hands, innocent of all but the faintest trace of fuzz. It was chance alone that was responsible for Rajkumars presence in Mandalay that November morning. His boat the sampan on which he worked as a helper and errand-boy had been found to need repairs after sailing up the Irrawaddy from the Bay of Bengal. The boatowner had taken fright on being told that the work might take as long as a month, possibly even longer. He couldnt afford to feed his crew that long, hed decided: some of them would have to find other jobs. Rajkumar was told to walk to the city, a couple of miles inland. At a bazaar, opposite the west wall of the fort, he was to ask for a woman called Ma Cho. She was half-Indian and she ran a small food-stall; she might have some work for him. And so it happened that at the age of eleven, walking into the city of Mandalay, Rajkumar saw, for the first time, a straight road. By the sides of the road there were bamboo-walled shacks and palm-thatched shanties, pats of dung and piles of refuse. But the straight course of the roads journey was unsmudged by the clutter that flanked it: it was like a causeway cutting across a choppy sea. Its lines led the eye right through the city, past the bright red walls of the fort to the distant pagodas of Mandalay Hill, shining like a string of white bells upon the slope. For his age, Rajkumar was well travelled. The boat he worked on was a coastal cra|1. In an interview, Amitav Ghosh said of his work, The Glass Palace, one can examine the truths of individuals in history definitely more completely in fiction than one can in history. Discuss this statement as it pertains to the novel. Which truths do his characters reveal?2. Look closely at the characters whom Ghosh envisions in the most detail, Rajkumar, Dolly, Uma, Arjun, to name a few. They become extraordinary in our minds of the reader, as we travel with them through a century of social upheaval and political turmoil. But according to the social structure, they are all, or once were, relatively ordinary individuals. What is the effect of focusing a novel of such grand, epic sweep, on members of common society? How does this very subtle choice affect the storys shape? What does it tell us about history, and how we have always been taught to remember it?3. Memory could almost be considered a character unto itself in Ghoshs novel. For instance, Rajkumars life is utterly driven and shaped by his one, striking, boyhood memory of Dolly in the plundered Glass Palace during the invasion of Burma. How does memory play into the lives of Ghoshs other characters? Can you think of examples where memory compelled a character to action, or impeded him from recognizing a particular truth? To what extent does Ghosh suggest the existence of collective memory?4. Ghosh raises several debates over the course of the novel, one central to the political subtext being that of Imperialism vs. Fascism. Why does society not look upon Imperial soldiers with the same scorn it holds for those soldiers committing atrocities under fascist regimes? Should these Imperial mercenaries be considered willing and conscious henchmen, or were they merely following orders? What stance does Ghosh take on this issue, if any? What other debates were you able to extract from the book? What techniques does Ghosh use to bring these issues and their various arguments to light?5. Ghosh constructs several unique, remarkable, and strong female characters: Dolly, Uma, Queen Supayalat, even the First Princess, who becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Each of these women tells us something different and important about the time and place in which she was living. What strengths do these women express, and at what points are they identified and illuminated in the novel? In examining the range and evolution of Ghoshs female characters, what could we conclude about the relationship between feminine domesticity and empire? Where and how do the two intersect? What role do women play under colonialism, and how do Ghoshs characters either reflect or reject it?6. Uma is a particularly interesting character, as she illuminates one of the ideas central to Ghoshs novel. When we first encounter her, she is constantly worried about being the propermemsahib, following traditional domestic etiquette, and living up to the standards of her husband, the Collector. She soon realized, however, that her husbands dream was not in accordance with the rules of Indian custom, he longed to live with a woman as an equal in spirit and intellect, and she could never, according to custom, fulfill those expectations. We see a monumental change in her disposition when she returns to India from New York. How has she transformed, and by what force? What does Umas character tell us about the nature of history and the power of social forces as factors in everyday life?7. Over the course of the novel, the division between conquerors and conquered becomes increasingly hard to distinguish. The inevitable ethical dilemma faced by Indian soldiers in the British army comes to the foreground of the novel, as one member of the INA challenges Indian soldiers in the British army, Do you really wish to sacrifice

Author: Amitav Ghosh

Language: English

Edition: X

Binding: Paperback

Pages: 486

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks

Publication Date: 2002-02-12

Our Price: $3.85

ISBN: 0375758771

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Amitav Ghosh (Edition: X) Paperback

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