It begins in a near future New York City, when Antar, a low-level programmer in a vast bureaucracy, comes upon the lost and battered I.D. card of a man he once knew -- a man who vanished somewhere in Calcutta, India, years before. Strangely compelled, Antar begins to research the disappearance of the enigmatic L. Murugan and is unwittingly drawn into a bizarre alternate history of medical science. Leaping backwards to Calcutta in 1995, we follow Murugan as he traces the twisted threads of science, counterscience and ritual back a hundred years farther to the laboratory of Ronald Ross, the British scientist who discovered how malaria is transmitted to humans. Eventually Murugan -- and now Antar -- will stumble upon evidence of an impossible ongoing experiment in controlled destiny.
Writer and anthropologist Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956 and spent his childhood in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and northern India. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Egypt, and has taught in various Indian and American universities. He is the author of three books: The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines and In An Antique Land and has written for The New Yorker, Granta, The New Republic and The New York Times. Mr. Ghosh and his wife, Deborah Baker, live in New York with their two children.