Smoke and Ashes: Opium’s Hidden Histories

Recorded Books.  ed. Feb. 2024. 12:34 hrs. ISBN 9798891781979. $24.99. HIST
Arthur C. Clarke and Jnanpith Award–winning novelist and nonfiction writer Ghosh (The Great Derangement) delves into the complicated and often sordid economic and cultural history of opium. Ghosh became curious about the impact of opium while researching his “Ibis” trilogy. Narrator Ranjit Madgavkar channels Ghosh’s grim curiosity as he discusses opium’s connections to capitalism, colonialism, and trade, specifically in and between Britain, China, and the author’s native India. Ghosh’s fascination with his topic shines in his deeply researched account, which necessarily involves his own family history. Madgavkar smoothly narrates the book’s complex topics, which range from the Opium Wars to the United States’ own involvement (through some of the country’s most prominent families) with the opium trade. As he unspools Ghosh’s argument that global trade and the history of the world’s most powerful nations are inextricably bound to opium, Madgavkar conveys excitement, intrigue, and sorrow.
VERDICT Recommended for listeners seeking to learn more about opium, including its earliest history, its impact on the lands and communities that handled it, and its reverberations into the present day. Fans of Stephen R. Platt’s Imperial Twilight will want to check this out.
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