In this interview with a Duke University scholar, novelist Amitav Ghosh explains how history is at the centre of the novel, how the novel is about moments of significance and why he is interested in things:
There is a sense in which all novels are historical novels because every novel is an account of something that has already happened, unless it is science fiction. So history is absolutely at the heart of the novel. War and Peace is a historical novel and since the events of Moby Dick took place some seventy to eighty years before, that too fits into the genre. In that sense, many of the novelists I admire wrote historical novels. I have always been very fascinated by history – even when I was a kid. The Bengali writer who I liked most as a child was Sharadindu Bandopadhyaya. He was a wonderful historical novelist. He lived in Poona and wrote these stories about a boy called Sadashiv. He was a soldier in Shivaji’s army and had many adventures. They were very interesting stories and I really enjoyed reading them.
I also loved reading Sir Walter Scott when I was in my early teens. In school, I’d spend hours immersed in Sir Walter Scott. When I went back to my school many years later, I found that no one had checked those books out of the library since that time.