I chanced upon this book while preparing the collection for my school library. As fan of Amitav Ghosh’s work it was no surprise that I was drawn to this book. At first I was surprised at the puny size of the book unlike the author’s other works which are sizeable 350-400 pages long. Even though only 35 pages long, this book manages to capture you from the start.
The book begins with our unknown narrator who is in a book club where people only discuss books and not about themselves. The only other person in the book club is Maansi. The two become close through their love for books. When choosing a theme for their book club for the coming year, our unspecified narrator and his friend Maansi—discover the phrase “Anthropocene,” which Maansi, in particular, finds intriguing. However, as the story continues, Maansi relates a vivid dream that she dreamt of after reading books on the topic “Anthropocene .”She experienced that it left her feeling somewhat uneasy.
She dreamt about herself as a young girl living in a village near the mighty Himalayas. The Great Mountain Mahaparbat, which protects several warring communities in the valley high in the Himalayas, is the main subject of her dream. The native population, despite a problematic existence, benefits from the abundance of the natural resources that the Mountain provides and lives under its protection. The locals respect the Mountain, singing and celebrating in its honor, following the traditions their forefathers left behind. The unbreakable rule was that no one from the valley was to step foot on the Mahaparbat’s slopes. The Magic Tree has various applications for its wood, leaves, fruit, and nuts, and out of all the natural resources accessible to Valley residents, it is unique. Due to its numerous advantages, the nut draws special attention and is in high demand. Trading Week, an annual exchange of goods and services between Elderpeople from the Valley and the Lowlands, takes place at the mountain pass, which is off-limits to others. Curiosity quickly turns into action on the part of the Anthropoi, who invade the valley and seize control over the residents, their resources, and the Great Mountain after a representative from a group of people who call themselves Anthropoi requests access to Great Mountain and is denied it following the Law of the Valley. Next is a chain of events that starts with the exploitation of natural resources and the subjugation of the indigenous population by the Anthropoi and ends with rebellion, internal strife, and destruction brought on by the complete disregard for the effects of man’s actions against nature.
The Living Mountain: a Fable for Our Times, by Amitav Ghosh, is a beautifully written fable with a lot to say in just 35 pages. This allegory is a cautionary tale and a simplistic yet vivid depiction of colonialism, climate change, exploitation of man and nature, and the far-reaching effects of commercialism, climate change and abuse of natural resources fueled by the greed and avarice of men. It is deceptively simple with folktale-like elements and descriptions. This is a tale with depth for everyone, and it’s timely, and important one. I felt that the book ended too soon and would have preferred more than 35 pages. Along with the eloquent writing of Amitav, the straightforward black-and-white graphics by Devangana Dash beautifully accompany the narrative. This book should be read, reread, shared, and discussed.