Release of novel ‘Ghosts of Calcutta’ by Fabrice Etienne

Release of novel ‘Ghosts of Calcutta’ by Fabrice Etienne, Consul General of France in Calcutta

New Delhi, 23 July 2015

H.E. Mr François Richier, Ambassador of France to India, had the pleasure of hosting the release of ‘Ghosts of Calcutta’, the latest novel of Sébastien Ortiz, the pen name of Mr Fabrice Etienne, Consul General of France in Calcutta. The book has been translated from the French original ‘Fantômes à Calcutta’ by Sriparna Chatterjee and published by Sampark Publishing House.

Publisher Sunandan Roy Chowdhury presented the book, and the author read out excerpts from the original French, while the translator read the English version. The publisher then engaged in a conversation with the author. The event took place on Thursday, 23rd July 2015 at the Residence of France.

Ghosts of Calcutta

Ghosts of Calcutta: Calcutta lends itself to fact and to fiction. Writers explore the city’s history, novelists create their cast of characters with the city as the backdrop. But few weave fact and fiction as magically as Sebastien Ortiz. Ghosts of Calcutta is an interplay of histories, lives, myths. Here fact overlaps fiction, fiction meanders along the lanes of the past. The lanes of past are lined by palaces in ruins that create a past in the present. The present too is an interplay of lives and loves.

Ghosts have haunted Calcutta for as long as the city’s memory goes back. A young boy is killed in a duel between two Englishmen; the wife of the Commander of the British Indian Army pines away and dies; a policeman is killed when communal violence erupts; the director of the Government Art College dies out of love for the female body. Numerous buildings of colonial Calcutta are today the haunts of ghosts.

Ortiz goes on the ghostly trail of the men, women, buildings that constitutes the many pasts of Calcutta. He also pens the life of a Bengali man, a lover of France, who loses his wife and lives an existence that is a ghost of his vibrant past. Many lives crisscross, the poor Christian maid servant and her beautiful young daughter Rosemarie live pages across from the Bengalis in love with Dover Lane Music Conference.

As one grapples with life and love in Calcutta, Ghosts of Calcutta meanders through a city that is present in the past and weaves a narrative that is as magical as real. In the novel, we come across lines from Borges, where he says, India is bigger than the world. The protagonist of this novel feels, if that was so, then Calcutta is bigger than India. Could it be true?

Sebastien Ortiz

Sebastien Ortiz is the pen name of Fabrice Etienne. A career diplomat, he has served in French missions in Indonesia, Burma and most recently, Calcutta, India. He fell in love with literature early in life, and his second love- Asia - has kept him engrossed for the last twenty-five odd years. Starting out as a traveller and volunteer in Asia, Ortiz spent a large part of his adult life in the continent. A student of politics and the Chinese language, his encounters with Calcutta and India began in 1995 and are as alive as ever. His first novel Taleb (Gallimard, 2002) was shortlisted for several prizes in France, and has been translated into a number of languages. Fantômes à Calcutta (Arlea, 2009) is his third novel.


Sampark is a literary-academic press based in Calcutta. It was founded by Sunandan Roy Chowdhury in 1998. Translations from Indian and foreign languages is a major focus of Sampark. Sampark’s books are sold by eminent bookstores and are available on flipkart and amazon.
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Last modified on 24/07/2015

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