The Circle of Reason
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A New York Times Notable Book: A policeman chases a falsely accused man on a wild journey around the world in this “utterly involving” novel (The Sunday Times).

When eight-year-old Nachiketa Bose first arrives in the East Bengali village of Lalpukur, he receives the name Alu—potato—for the size and shape of his extraordinary head. His uncle Balaram, the local schoolmaster and phrenology enthusiast, sends Alu to apprentice as a weaver, and the boy soon surpasses the skill of his master. But when a tragic bombing leaves Alu suspected of terrorism, he flees across India to Bombay and the Arabian Sea, followed all the way by the dogged policeman—and avid ornithologist—Jyoti Das.
From East Bengal to the Persian Gulf and North Africa, Amitav Ghosh’s wild and extraordinary novel “follows in the footsteps of magical realists like Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie” (The New York Times Book Review).
“A novelist of dazzling ingenuity.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A Scheherezade effortlessly spinning tales within tales, the possessor of a strong narrative voice quite like no other.” —Newsday
“Ghosh’s writing soars, producing electric images.” —The Baltimore Sun
“A wonderful mix of magic and horror, wit and curiosity . . . Ghosh has really woven a fresh world for us to visit.” —Providence Sunday Journal



Publié par
Date de parution 03 mai 2005
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9780547525006
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Title Page
A Pasteurized Cosmos
Signs of New Times
The School of Reason
Taking Sides
The Ghost in the Machine
Going West
Falling Star
A Voice in the Ruins
From an Egg-Seller’s End
The Call to Reason
A Last Look
Playing to a Beat
About the Author
First Mariner Books edition 2005

Copyright © 1986 by Amitav Ghosh

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

First published in Great Britain by Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1986

First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, 1986

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Ghosh, Amitav. The circle of reason/by Amitav Ghosh. p. cm. ISBN 0-618-32962-5 (pbk.) ISBN 978-0-618-32962-5 1. Title. [PR9499.3.G536C57 1990] 89-26504

e ISBN 978-0-547-52500-6 v3.1215
For my parents
For their help and encouragement, I would like to thank, among many, many others, Mukul Kesavan, Hari Sen, Radhika Chopra, Supriya Guha, K. Jayaram, Felix Padel, Veena Das and my sister Chaitali (who helped more than she knew).
Part One
Chapter One
The boy had no sooner arrived, people said afterwards, than Balaram had run into the house to look for the Claws.
There were plenty of people gathered outside the big house to vouch for it—boys in buttonless shorts, toothless, shrouded widows, a few men who had not found work for the day, squatting and scratching. Toru-debi threatened and scolded, but not one of them budged. It was not every day that someone new arrived in Lalpukur. Especially in such unusual circumstances (everyone knew them, of course).
Years later—thirteen to be exact—when people talked about all that had happened, sitting under the great banyan tree in the centre of the village (where Bhudeb Roy’s life-size portrait had once fallen with such a crash), it was generally reckoned that the boy’s arrival was the real beginning. Some said they knew the moment they set eyes on that head. That was a little difficult to believe. But, still, it was an extraordinary head—huge, several times too large for an eight-year-old, and curiously uneven, bulging all over with knots and bumps.
Someone said: It’s like a rock covered with fungus. But Bolai-da, who had left his cycle-repair shop and chased the rickshaw which was bringing Toru-debi and the boy home from the station, all the way to the house on his bamboo-thin bandy legs, wouldn’t have that. He said at once: No, it’s not like a rock at all. It’s an alu , a potato, a huge, freshly dug, lumpy potato.
So Alu he was named and Alu he was to remain, even though he had another name, finely scriptural—Nachiketa. Nachiketa Bose. But Alu was all that he was ever known as, and nobody could deny its appropriateness.
It was remarkably apt, as Bolai-da said—a little too apt, if anything—that Balaram, who had for so many years spent all his spare time measuring and examining people’s heads, should have a nephew who had the most unusual head anybody had ever seen. No wonder he had run inside as soon as he set eyes on the boy (though he could have waited a bit since the boy was, after all, coming to live with him).
People were sorry for the boy, of course. It was barely a week since he had lost his mother and his father (Balaram’s brother) in a car accident. It was hard after a shock like that to go away to live with an unknown aunt and uncle.
It was common knowledge that the boy had not met Balaram, his own uncle, ever before. Balaram and his brother had never so much as exchanged a letter since the day, fourteen years before Alu arrived in Lalpukur, when Balaram took his share of their inheritance and moved to the village—without so much, as his brother shouted after him, as a thought for the floundering family business. Later, with that vicious prescience peculiar to close relatives, he had even left instructions in his will that Balaram was not to be told of his death, nor asked to attend the funeral. But, as people told their children, nodding wisely, death chooses its own ironies: in the end it was to Balaram that his orphaned and more or less destitute son had to go.
And after all that to be faced with an unknown uncle bearing down on you with what looked like gigantic eagle’s talons!
Actually, it was only Balaram’s Claws. The villagers through long familiarity knew it to be harmless; but, still, they also knew it was little less than terrifying when seen for the first time. It was a kind of instrument, with three arms of finely planed and polished wood, each tapering to a sharp point at one end and joined to the others by a calibrated hinge. Balaram had designed it himself, soon after he discovered Phrenology. It had been made for him in Calcutta, at considerable expense. But, for all that, it was a simple instrument; merely a set of calipers, for measuring skulls. Only, at first sight, it looked as though it had been specially designed for gouging out eyes.
As Balaram advanced with the Claws held out in front of him, the boy shrank back, his knees shaking beneath his starched black shorts. Luckily for him, at that very moment Toru-debi turned towards the house after paying off the rickshaw. One look at the Claws and she knew exactly what was happening. She bounded up the four steps to the door with a cry, and snatched the instrument out of her husband’s hands. He dropped his head, crestfallen, and ran his fingers through his thick white hair. Again? she cried, herding him into the house. You’ve started again? And on your own nephew, even before he’s stepped into the house?
She came back to fetch the boy only after she had shut Balaram safely into his study. The boy was standing on the steps in front of the door, staring silently with his large wondering eyes, at the people gathered outside and the swaying coconut palms and fields of green rice beyond. She took him by the hand and led him into the house, and with one last angry gesture at the people outside she barred the door behind her.
But once he was inside the house she panicked. Tugging him across the courtyard towards the smoky, soot-blackened kitchen on the other side, she shouted: Nonder-ma, Nonder-ma.
Nonder-ma hobbled out of the kitchen mumbling toothlessly, bent almost double, no more than a few withered bones, with her widow’s white homespun wrapped so carelessly around her that her dugs flapped outside, hanging down to her shrunken waist. Give him milk, give him milk, Toru-debi cried. She remembered that children are said to like milk. Muttering and complaining, Nonder-ma handed him a brass tumbler; and then, thrusting her face forward till he could see the grey flecks in her eyes, she examined him minutely. Liverish, she muttered. Look at his eyelids. Probably constipated, too.
The boy put the tumbler down and looked away. Be quiet, Nonder-ma, Toru-debi said, and handed it back to him, clucking her tongue in encouragement. But he would not touch it again.
What did he want? What do boys of eight do? What do they want? Childless herself, Toru-debi knew nothing of children. Children inhabited another world. A world without sewing machines. They neither hemmed, nor chain-stitched, nor cross-stitched, nor quilted. What did they do?
She had spent the whole morning worrying. How would a boy of eight, brought up in the clamour and excitement of Calcutta, like Lalpukur, she had wondered, as the cycle-rickshaw, honking with flurries of its rubber hooter, took her down the red-dust lanes of the village; past the great vaulted and pillared banyan tree with the tea-shop and Bolai-da’s unrepaired cycles nestling in dark niches in its trunk; past the rickety shed of the pharmacy, where the young men of the village gathered in the evenings to read newspapers and play cards and drink toddy; past the ponds mildewed with water-hyacinth and darkened by leaning coconut palms, through velvety green fields of young rice, to the little red-brick station three miles away.
Once she was at the station she forgot her greater worry for the more immediate one of finding the right boy. And when at last she saw him, potato head and all, with a few bits of luggage and an impatient relative beside him, the Singer which had so long and so securely colonized her heart wobbled precariously. For a moment. Ten years earlier she might perhaps have pushed the machine away altogether, but at middle age it was too difficult to cope with the unexpected. Besides, the Singer had been part of her dowry; she had seen it for the first time on the morning after the traumas of her wedding night; it was her child in a way her husband’s nephew could never be. On the way back to the house she began to explain to the boy that his uncle had not come to meet him because he was busy (which was a lie: the truth was that Balaram had been afraid—he had not been able to summon the courage to meet this offspring of his brother in the impersonality of a railway platform), but he showed no interest, so she talked to him happily of the clothes she would make him on her sewing machine.
That was how it was to be with Toru-debi and Alu. After he arrived her courtship with her machine was to

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