Cover Image: The Living Mountain

The Living Mountain

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Member Reviews

I head a lot about Amitav Ghosh but this was the first work I read and I throughly appreciated it.
It's novella, well written and full of food for though as it reminds us that we are all at risk due to human greed.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Ive been an ardent fan of this author. I wished the book was a bit longer . Ofcourse a brilliant fable on a topic we should all be aware of
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Thanks to Harper Collins India and NetGalley for a review copy of this story.

Amitav Ghosh is one of my favorite writers and this is my first time reading a short story from him. While quick, the book does not disappoint. It is a timely story of how human greed destroys the nature
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'The Living Mountain' is a very short book - you can't even call it a novella - by acclaimed writer Amitav Ghosh.  I'm a fan of Ghosh's novels and was keen to read this, without realising quite how short it is.  Ghosh has previously used themes of environmental degradation and the gulf between rich and poor in some of his other novels, particularly 'Gun Island'.  In 'The Living Mountain' he tells a simple fable-like story of a sacred mountain that is exploited by greedy foreigners.  The local people forget to worship their mountain and assist in its destruction, and are the first to suffer the consequences.

I found the target audience a puzzle - is it intended as a children's book?  It's not advertised as one, and I'm not sure it would be suitable.  But there is a simplicity, an obviousness about it that would normally be found in books aimed at younger readers.  There are also pictures, simple line drawings.  As metaphors go, it's not subtle, and it doesn't really tell us anything we don't know.  The strongest elements lay in its allegorical exploration of the inequitable way economically rich and poor nations are treated when it comes to climate change.  That was well done, although it didn't tell me anything new.

Usually with a morality tale like this you want it to cast new light on an issue, to show the thing it is satirising in a new way.  I can't honestly say this book does that.  It doesn't tell me anything I don't know or what me think about what I do know any differently.  I'm not sure what the 'point' is meant to be.  It may be that I'm not the right target reader for the book, but I also can't see who would be in order to make recommendations.

If you have reading time, I'd suggest skipping this and trying one of Ghosh's novels instead, you'll get a much longer and more enlightening read that way.
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Even though it was very short to leave a mark it was very engaging and evocative. A cautionary tale about how greed destroys nature. The illustrations are cute.
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Thank you, HarperCollins Publishers India, for the advance review copy.

Now that I have just read the book I'm in a daze as to how I haven't heard of this amazing short fable yet!

Filled with amazing black ink illustrations in between the pages, I am amazed at how well the fable has been told in just a few pages. Well done I would say! 

This is the story about Mahaparat, the Living Mountain, and why the story is relevant today, specially during the difficult times we are facing now because of the pandemic.

A timely production with a refreshing story, I appreciate the book so much.

A book for everyone and each of us will learn something new from this short book.
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My thanks to Harper Collins India and NetGalley for a review copy of this story.

The Living Mountains: A Fable of Our Times by Amitav Ghosh is a short work, less than novella length, which explores a range of themes including colonialism and the attendant exploitation of people and resources, devaluing of traditional knowledge, de-sacralisation and disenchantment, and greed and commercialisation which become a vicious cycle destroying the very ‘spirit’ of nature.

The story opens with the narrator and his online bookclub friend Maansi, two people who only interact on books and know little else of each other, discussing possible themes for the next year’s reading. Maansi proposes the ‘anthropocene’ a term both are unfamiliar with and volunteers to come up with a reading list. After some silence from her for a while, the narrator receives a message about a book she read on the theme being so very different from what she’d expected the ‘anthropocene’ to be, one which triggered off a tale, part dream, part memory of a story her grandmother had once told her, and it is this she shares with the narrator. 

The story is of a people who lived under the benevolent protection of a mountain, the Mahaparbat, which gave them all they needed to live happy, contented lives, and which was treated as sacred and never interfered with. 

It would protect us and look after us—but only on condition that we told stories about it, and sang about it, and danced for it—but always from a distance.

But that was until someone from the people called the Anthropoi arrived, who coveted the treasures of the mountain, dubbed its people ‘credulous and benighted’ for not having taken them, colonised, enslaved and exploited, belittled their knowledge and practices, setting off a chain from which there could be no return.

The savants of the Anthropoi were unmatched in their wisdom and they decided that since we were not making any use of the mountain’s riches, they were fully justified in seizing them and taking whatever they wished.

And when the colonised finally rebel and reclaim their space, starting to follow in the path the colonisers have set before them as model, once again they are found fault with, and all blame for any harm placed on them.

We are the Anthropoi, we always know best.

They would not admit that it was not the manner of climb that was to blame for our troubles—it was the climb itself.   
 
By the time the value of their knowledge and their approach is reached, it is seemingly too late…

This is a short but powerful and effective story in that it is able to convey so much and set one’s mind thinking on a range of issues (which—and I say this only from reviews I’ve read, since I’m yet to get to the book—the author has explored earlier in his nonfic—The Nutmeg’s Curse), in its few pages. A disconnect with, and disrespect for nature are still norms by which we live (irrespective of all claims to the contrary), and while their impacts in the form of the pandemic and climate concerns ought to have taught us a lesson, ought to get us to rethink the relentless greed, the exploitation, the destruction that we still perpetuate, the book raises the question of whether we have really learnt our lesson (no), and more so, is the lesson we’ve learnt the right one?

I loved how the author put forth the notion of the life-force, the spirit of the mountain (as a stand in for nature more broadly), which has been destroyed as a result of unthinking human intervention. I couldn’t help but think of Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis here which too, explored this idea of animals losing their powers to talk and so on, and trees losing their spirit because of human intervention. 

A very relevant book, and one that needs to be not only read but acted on as well.

4.5 stars
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