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En una tierra milenaria
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En una tierra milenaria

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,711 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Ésta es la historia de dos indios en Egipto. El primero de ellos es Bomma, un esclavo del siglo XII; el segundo es el propio autor, Amitav Ghosh, quien se tropieza con el siervo en los márgenes de unas cartas escritas por el amo de éste. Despertada su curiosidad, Ghosh viaja a la mítica tierra de los faraones en 1980 para conocer a fondo la vida de Bomma. Amitav Ghosh se m ...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published 2006 by Emece (first published 1993)
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I would rate this book as perhaps the most important book I have read in my life. Top five or 10 at least.

Not least because it creates a new genre -- we have yet to give it a name. But most importantly it struggles to arrive at how "temporal displacement" is not merely some theoretical device invented by tenuring academics, but rather something that everyday people in the 3rd world actually feel and experience.

Not least because it demonstrates the power of the archive; the ability of the West
Irene Black
In the early 1980s Amitav Ghosh was living in rural Egypt, engaged in field world for his social anthropology doctorate. In this book Ghosh plaits together three different stories: that of his time living in two Egyptian villages, his return to the villages eight years later and the life of 12th century North African Jewish merchant Ben Yiju and his Indian `slave' (actually more of a business associate) Bomma. Ghosh discovered the Ben Yiju story by examining documents from the massive haul found ...more
I bought In An Antique Land from a small bookshop in Mussoorie, a lovely town in Northern India. I read it while travelling in Northern India Dec 2012-Jan 2013. I love this magical book. The story is like nothing I've read before. A mix of antiquity, the interaction of several faiths and contemporary travels and the author researching records of a 12th century slave. Amitav Ghosh is an extraordinarily gifted writer.
One gets to know the slave and his master, who is a merchant. The slave is entrus
Sep 15, 2007 Jeanne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in history and the politics of religion
A complex, layered novel steeped in etymology and irony. Based on the experiences of anthropologist Amitav Ghosh while he studied in a hamlet in Egypt. Woven into those modern experiences are stories of the medieval composition of the Holy Land. Really worth reading. Elegantly written.
To get the most of this book, don't be afraid to wiki references (Galen, Maimonides) for a historical context and also it's good to have a pretty decent working knowledge of Muslim and Hindi culture.
This turned out to be a really lovely book. I couldn't make up my mind about it for the first 100 pages or so, because although the narrator provides some interesting cultural anecdotes about the small towns in Egypt where he was living, he doesn't insert himself into the narrative in a way that becomes productive or reflective for the reader.

That changes about half-way through the book, however, when he begins to push back from becoming a stereotyped expatriate, and describes an incredibly vivi
Anil Swarup
No where near the best from Amitav, yet eminently readable because the immaculate research and the prose so typical of him. He is one of the few who can come up with subtly remarkable criticism of the west: " Unable to compete in the Indian Ocean trade by purely commercial means, the Europeans were bent on taking control of it by aggression, pure and distilled, by unleashing violence on a scale unprecedented on those shores". He goes on to state further: " the determination of a small, united ba ...more
Abhinav Jaganathan
In an Antique land for me was a very different experience...It was the first time I read a journal/memoir kind of non fictional account of an author's travels. I started out expecting some really good medeival tales from Ben Yiju and the slave but it was Ghosh's own experiences in Egypt that proved more intriguing and better to me. This is my first Amitav Ghosh book and I really didn't know it was non fiction until I was 30 pages into it. By then I found it really informative and I thought what ...more
Ghosh has a fantastically open and honest voice. A wonderful interweaving of past and present. This is how I like my history written. Medieval Islamic culture, India and Her trade with Egypt and Arabia, the Jewish diaspora and a discovery of medieval documents in a synagogue in the Old Town in Cairo and our modern fracture lines... the The common thread here, and common, I may add to most contemporary Indian writers with good reason, is the shifting and surprisingly amorphous boundaries between ...more
I think and talk about this book a lot. I listened to it on CD, and think it would have been better for me to have read it - there are numerous names that all mushed together for me (like in a Russian novel) that would have been easier if I had visual clues.

There are several stories. First, the story of the author, an Indian(actually a Bengali) and a Hindu, living in a very small, rural Egyptian village. I never quite figured out what exactly he was doing there other than that he was an anthro
Amitav Ghosh is essayist and blogger as well as novelist, and it was the sheer pleasure from some of his essays and blog posts that induced me to take on one of his novels.

Of his work this book appealed to me most, due to half-remembered reviews describing it as a melange of genres, of nationalities, of languages, cultures, professions, and eras. And because Ghosh in "Confessions of a Xenophile" says his time in Egypt was "my equivalent of writing school. While living in [the governorate of] Beh
I found this book rather underwhelming. I was keen to really learn a great deal about the relationship among the countries that enjoyed centuries of trade across the Indian ocean, especially modern-day India, Yemen, and Egypt. The movement back and forth between Ghosh's travels in Egypt and the historical material he found from the Cairo Geniza was quite intriguing and I was willing to overlook the fact that these two parts of his story were quite disjointed. I kept expecting them to be tied tog ...more
Roshni Kanchan
Read this author for the first time. Most probably last time too.

The book has 3 streams:

1) The authors diary - the people of the village where he is staying, their customs, beliefs, his conversations, etc. This is the most enjoyable part.

2) The story of a slave and his master which the author is researching. Till the end I was not quite sure why it is even there.

3) Background info of places, rituals etc. I realized at the end that this is simply an fyi to the reader from the author. Only for add
An interesting weave of non-fiction and fiction. I liked the Egyptian history and hearing stories about their fellaheen customs. Many of the Ben Yiju and his slave sub-stories were long winded accounts of trivial interactions that, most of the time, didn't really add anything to the more interesting central story of "ya Doktor" traveling about the small villages of Egypt as an outsider. Overall, the Ben Yiju sub-plot added to the past-meets-present theme of the book, but it almost had a Biblical ...more
This had a lot of promise, but didn't really live up to it. It's a parallel history of a Middle Eastern Jew and his slave from the 12th century, alongside Ghosh's own experience in 1970s/80s Egypt. The point was to provide a kind of contrapuntal narrative, but I never felt like they cohered very well. I also thought it degenerated into a pretty traditional tale of "The Middle East was a place of wonder and cultural dialogue and peace before the West came and ruined everything." His own narrative ...more
4 star? 5 star? It's a book I'm happy, happy reading and want to keep for years. Ghosh uses his notes from a year (1980) doing research in Egypt and living in a small village to create a vivid story of people, place, connections/disconnections between Egypt and India, in both the late 20th and mid-12th centuries. Plus, in these days of hopeful unrest in Egypt, it gives a glimpse of some changes going on 30 years ago that make the present seem almost inevitable. (The more Ghosh I read, the more a ...more
Amitav Ghosh has truly transcended genres in this beautifully written and painstakingly researched novel where historical facts, like the 1947 partition of India, Egyptian revolution of 1952, the Iraq war of 1990 are drawn into but not overwhelming the fabric of the story. It’s from the Cairo Geniza where Ghosh gets his inspiration to write about the Slave of MS H.6 taking us on a compelling journey through the middle ages following the trade routes around the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the M ...more
Jim Leffert
I’m impressed! In 1981, Ghosh was a bright young man from India who studied at Oxford. For his dissertation in anthropology he moved to a backwater village in northern Egypt and spent hours hanging out with and befriending a variety of people, including simple fellahin, young students, and village elders, immersing himself in the village culture and sympathetically connecting with the peoples’ struggles.

As related here, Ghosh also engaged in an esoteric research project that required him to lea
Sairam Krishnan
Friends have been constantly telling me to read Amitav Ghosh, as his tales about lands and people and the great journeys of South Asian history are the very stories I've always been interested in. And so here I'm.

In an Antique Land has a premise that will hook any reader interested in the spirit of place. Ghosh relates to us his experiences as a young anthropologist in rural Egypt, and sets it against the life of a Jew merchant from Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia) and his Tulu slave, about whom we onl
In an Antique Land is a strange and, at least for me, unsatisfying mix of Ghosh's account of spending several years in the 1970's in farming communities in the Egyptian delta, and his research and reimagining of the life of a so-called slave to a Jewish merchant in India in the 12th century. The passages about Ghosh's time in Egypt are fascinating and recount the rapidly changing yet still traditional villages and interactions with the people he meets there. As a stand alone work, it would have ...more
Murali Neelakantan
After reading The Glass Palace, The Sea of Poppies and Dancing in Cambodia, In an Antique Land is very much a disappointment. There seems to be quite an effort to connect his stay in a village in Egypt in the 1990s with the life of Ben Yiju, a Jewish trader who spent about two decades in Malabar during the twelfth century. One really struggles to see the point of the book. If it was to tell us the story of the trading connections between Aden and Malabar and the life of Ben Yiju, by the author's ...more
This remains my favorite of Amitav's books. The interweaving of history and travel is unique and still unprecedented for its combination of ethnographic insight and fascination with people. Once a gentleman caller of mine when we were both at Oxford University, Amitav's voice and candor come through as if it were just yesterday when we last spoke. There is nothing false or flamboyant about his writing style - it is both elegant and accessible. And he is still quite a handsome.

For me, it's a tie
Linda Watkins
This is a curious book. Ghosh sets out to find an Indian slave from the distant past with basically no info to go on. He weaves a tale,some fact some fiction as he travels & invites you to meet the people he meets & experiences the life he is experiencing as he searches. It an enjoyable read once you get into the rhythm of it. Part of the time he is narrating his life as he searches & part of the time the lives of the characters from the past he is searching for. The adventure happen ...more
Dec 05, 2007 Malini rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rebekka Istrail
This is a book about the fragments in the present that link back to a rich interwoven world of so many years ago. A great book that goes far beyond the stereotypes about Judaism, Islam, and India.
I forget what made me grab this book it an put it on Mt. Bookpile but whatever instinct that was, it was a good one!

This is an odd book, part history, part personal memoir, and the intertwining of the two doesn't always work well. Ghosh is intrigued by mention of a slave, an Indian owned by a Jew, Ben Yiju, some 700 years earlier; the scraps of information found in the Cairo Geniza provide tantalizing clues to the existence of both Ben Yiju and the man Ghosh eventually names Bomma, and his trave
I had very mixed feelings about this book and it was not one that I could read for long stretches at a time.
I should probably say from the start that one of the reasons I read it is because I absolutely loved a later book of his called "Sea of Poppies" and am waiting for the second part to come out. From that point of view it was very interesting as it gave me an insight into the author as a person, his background and what led him to Sea of Poppies. The descriptions of village life in Egypt wer
Irene Black
In the early 1980s Amitav Ghosh was living in rural Egypt, engaged in field world for his social anthropology doctorate. In this book Ghosh plaits together three different stories: that of his time living in two Egyptian villages, his return to the villages eight years later and the life of 12th century North African Jewish merchant Ben Yiju and his Indian `slave' (actually more of a business associate) Bomma. Ghosh discovered the Ben Yiju story by examining documents from the massive haul found ...more
There are parts that I really related to, like when the people of the village ask thousands of questions of Ghosh and he becomes tired and reluctant to answer them, very much like anyone living abroad. Or when Jabir comes home from college and is a little lost with what to do next. Its comforting that these experiences continue in various places and times.

I enjoyed the way different traditions were portrayed in the book, things were explained well with anecdotes to provide insight and understand
[Review from 2009] It's hard to even explain what Amitav Ghosh is doing in his book. He has entwined together a multiplicity of stories: his own experience as an Indian ethnographer in Egypt, the experiences over time and space of the rural "fellah" Egyptian men with whom he lived, his exploration of the past through historical archives, and the stories he uncovers, of widespread movement and trade in the Indian Ocean prior to the arrival of the Portuguese and their monopoly of Indian Ocean trad ...more
Sophia Lee
So much promise, but didn't deliver.

I almost stopped reading without finishing because there were just some parts that were muddy like a dry, history tome that jarred with the author's own memoir. The author's experience was much more interesting and entertaining than that of some Jewish merchant in Middle Age India. I suppose he tried his best, but he just didn't have enough substance to make a good, cohesive story out of the ancient character whose only survival is evidenced through old lette
The subject of this book, trade and cultural interchange between India and North Africa (and the Far East as well to some extent), told through the story of the Indian, Bomma, slave of a Tunisian Jewish Merchant in the 11th century who settled in Mangalore, is quite interesting and a refreshing look at history. For one, Ghosh manages to bring a seemingly lost history back to life and sets the events of the slave and his master's life in context that makes for interesting reading. Also Ghosh's an ...more
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Amitav Ghosh is one of India's best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances, The Hungry Tide. His most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, is the first volume of the Ibis Trilogy.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexan
More about Amitav Ghosh...
The Glass Palace Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1) The Hungry Tide The Shadow Lines River of Smoke (Ibis Trilogy, #2)

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“A bare two years after Vasco da Gama’s voyage a Portuguese fleet led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral arrived on the Malabar coast. Cabral delivered a letter from the king of Portugal to the Samudri (Samudra-raja or Sea-king), the Hindu ruler of the city-state of Calicut, demanding that he expel all Muslims from his kingdom as they were enemies of the ‘Holy Faith’. He met with a blank refusal; then afterwards the Samudra steadfastly maintained that Calicut had always been open to everyone who wished to trade there…

During those early years the people who had traditionally participated in the Indian Ocean trade were taken completely by surprise. In all the centuries in which it had flourished and grown, no state or kings or ruling power had ever before tried to gain control of the Indian Ocean trade by force of arms. The territorial and dynastic ambitions that were pursued with such determination on land were generally not allowed to spill over into the sea.

Within the Western historiographical record the unarmed character of the Indian Ocean trade is often represented as a lack, or failure, one that invited the intervention of Europe, with its increasing proficiency in war. When a defeat is as complete as was that of the trading cultures of the Indian Ocean, it is hard to allow the vanquished the dignity of nuances of choice and preference. Yet it is worth allowing for the possibility that the peaceful traditions of the oceanic trade may have been, in a quiet and inarticulate way, the product of a rare cultural choice — one that may have owed a great deal to the pacifist customs and beliefs of the Gujarati Jains and Vanias who played such an important part in it. At the time, at least one European was moved to bewilderment by the unfamiliar mores of the region; a response more honest perhaps than the trust in historical inevitability that has supplanted it since. ‘The heathen [of Gujarat]’, wrote Tomé Pires, early in the sixteenth century, ‘held that they must never kill anyone, nor must they have armed men in their company. If they were captured and [their captors] wanted to kill them all, they did not resist. This is the Gujarat law among the heathen.’

It was because of those singular traditions, perhaps, that the rulers of the Indian Ocean ports were utterly confounded by the demands and actions of the Portuguese. Having long been accustomed to the tradesmen’s rules of bargaining and compromise they tried time and time again to reach an understanding with the Europeans — only to discover, as one historian has put it, that the choice was ‘between resistance and submission; co-operation was not offered.’ Unable to compete in the Indian Ocean trade by purely commercial means, the Europeans were bent on taking control of it by aggression, pure and distilled, by unleashing violence on a scale unprecedented on those shores.”
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