Cascoly Books: Amitav Ghosh - Calcutta Chromosome

Cascoly Books - Amitav Ghosh - Calcutta Chromosome

The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium & Discovery - Amitav Ghosh

When a patient has syphilis, cure them by infecting them with malaria. This amazing piece of medical trivia drives the plot of one of Ghosh 's first books. While not as tight as the later books, it's an interesting look at a writer's development. Intriguing to see how the author has changed over time, which also mirrors the meta-levels and subtexts he builds into each book.

Two Nobel prizes [ 1902, 1927] were awarded for the discovery of the transmission of malaria and the use of malaria to cure syphilis [ before the discovery of penicillin]. The researchers are barely known today, giving Ghosh a springboard for invention. As usual, Ghosh's protagonist is an outsider in strange world who discovers another complex of relations in a past world that helps make sense of his current world. Levels within levels and jump cuts thru time, but Ghosh makes it seem natural and compelling.

The hero this time is an Indian man working in a near future New York for a vaguely described world aid organization who gets involved in researching the disappearance of an aid worker who himself was researching the life of Ross, the discoverer of the malarial transmission process. What follows is a mix of medical mystery and soft sci-fi layered with the subtext of culture clashes - British imperialism, and western science, and artificial intelligence , ranged against ancient cultures and a Lamarckian twist that jumpstarts evolution. It all works, and is made more interesting reading it after Ghosh's later works, since you can see the genesis of his style.

It's not a book for everyone -- like much molecular biology.

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