The Calcutta Chromosome tries to marry an engaging plot with IT and medical science and, as such, it compares to Michel Houellebecq’s masterpiece, the ‘Particules élémentaires’. ...the Calcutta Chromosome is a well-written book, with a fascinating premise.
The central story line initially follows an obscure 1902 Nobel-prize winner of Medicine, Ronald Ross, who achieved major breakthroughs in malaria research he did in India. However, after reading Ross’s biography ...Amitav Ghosh puts some pertinent question marks behind Ross’s achievements.
Ghosh argues that Ronald Ross was a man of rather mediocre abilities. Until he started doing his malaria research, Ross had unsuccessfully pursued a literary career, being an ungifted, uninspired and unsuccessful poet and novelist. In a bizarre career switch, Ross started doing medical research in India. Yet, entirely on his own, he revolutionized our knowledge on malaria – by concluding his solitary research in the ridiculously short time-span of just three years.
This tale is told engagingly by Amitav Ghosh. To explain Ross’s success, Ghosh suggests the Ross was unknowingly manipulated by a mysterious gang of Indian beggar thugs, led by an old beggar queen invested with special powers.
But when the novel has reached this stage, somewhere halfway, Ghosh has clearly lost control over the storyline. There are sustained, but contorted and far-fetched attempts to link Ross’s adventures with New Yorkers living in a not-too-distant 21st century. To bridge this 100-year or so time gap, the story wildly jumps through space and time, leading the reader, in a haphazard fashion, to Egyptian villages, Finnish spiritists, Indian novelists and endless and utterly boring monologues. I flipped quickly through the last 90 pages to see where the novel would end. Unfortunately, nowhere.