One of the pleasures of being in Goa is that it is "such a literary place", says Amitav Ghosh, one of the biggest names in Indian writing in English today.
Ghosh, who lives in New York but has currently set up base in the rustic north Goa village of Aldona, was speaking at the launch of his new book, Sea of Poppies, held for a select audience - a mix of locals and expatriates, at the book boutique Literati in this beach village.
"One of the real pleasures of being in Goa - and one of the aspects of Goa that is very neglected - is that Goa is such a literary place," said the 52-year-old Indian writer.
"Dom Moraes, though not resident in Goa, is one of the writers completely formative in my childhood and college years," said the writer.
Moraes' book, My Son's Father was one of the greatest memoirs to come out of India, in Ghosh's view. "He was to be the greatest Indian prose stylist, with the most beautiful sentences," said Ghosh, even as Teresa Albuquerque - Moraes' aunt and the sister of the late editor Frank Moraes, sat in the audience.
Ghosh said he had been coming to Goa for 30 years, and one of the pleasures was "to have discovered the literary tradition".
"I say this though I read neither Konkani nor Portuguese, but what we can read through English is so interesting and so vital," he commented.
He specifically pointed to the works of expatriate-writer Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, Margaret Mascarenhas, artist F.N. Souza's memoirs, Goa-based writer Rahul Shrivastav, and Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo (now available in English, which Ghosh termed "another discovery").
Ghosh was also lavish in his praise of the Goa writer's group which meets in Panjim regularly. "The discussions I've been to are some of the most interesting and informed discussions on literature anywhere in the world," he said.
"It's such a pleasure to be here. To see so many friends, neighbours...," said Ghosh, known for works like The Glass Palace and The Hungry Tide.
His book, The Shadow Lines, won the Sahitya Akademi Award. The Calcutta Chromosome won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 1997.
Ghosh lives in New York with his wife, author-editor Deborah Baker. Online encyclopedia the Wikipedia says: "Ghosh has recently purchased a property in Goa and is returning to India."
Ghosh's latest work of fiction, Sea of Poppies is an epic saga set just before the Opium Wars which encapsulates the colonial history of the East.
He has also authored In an Antique Land (1992), Dancing in Cambodia, At Large in Burma (1998), Countdown (1999), and The Imam and the Indian (2002, a large collection of essays on different themes such as fundamentalism, history of the novel, Egyptian culture, and literature).