The Vermilion Boat

The Vermilion Boat

Sudhin N. Ghose






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(Paperback | ISBN 9789386338587 | 320 pages | April 2017)


 ‘Sisi-Magar became my boat, and straddled on its back I was transformed into a sea-god—one who defied the elements and to whom the wind and the waves paid homage. They no longer raved about death, but spoke of abundant life.’

A young orphan leaves for Calcutta, full of hope, to attend university there. But, on reaching the city, he finds he has been betrayed and left penniless and homeless by Jogin-Da, the guardian whom he respected and blindly trusted. Even as he scours the streets of Calcutta for shelter and sustenance, the young man finds himself drawn to the city’s glorious past, and repelled by the religious prejudices and narrowmindedness of its residents. At university, too, he comes into conflict with his peers who thoughtlessly ape Western culture and ignore the best parts of their own traditions. In a time of gathering disillusionment and disappointment, the young man finds a mentor in an ageing professor, Profulla Babu, and love—of a sort—with his Latin tutor, Roma. He receives a chance at redemption, too, after he befriends Sisi-Magar, a tame porpoise in a temple pond, which he must set free in the Ganges.

Published in 1953 and now being reissued for the first time in more than half a century, The Vermilion Boat is the third novel in Sudhin N. Ghose’s quartet which follows the life and career of an unnamed young man. As much a coming-of-age story as an account of the making of the great metropolis of Calcutta, The Vermilion Boat brings together history, legend and myth to create a rich, sprawling narrative.


Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


‘Similar to [Mulk Raj] Anand and to [Raja] Rao’s Kanthapura, Ghose’s novels dramatise the contrasting ethos of the village and the city… In each there is a happy coexistence of disparate realms: the worldly merges with the other-worldly, gods and legends stray into secular territory, and strong friendships are forged between humans and animals.’
An Illustrated History of Indian Literature in English

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About the author

Sudhindra Nath Ghose

Sudhindra Nath Ghose (1899–1965)—best known as Sudhin Ghose—was born in Bardhaman in Bengal. He moved to Europe as a student in the 1920s where he first studied science and art history before completing a doctorate in literature. Though he spent his entire writing career in the West, Sudhin Ghose, like his contemporaries Mulk Raj Anand, […]

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