‘Jonahwhale’, in three beautiful movements, takes on very current themes in its playful, mostly aquatic scope, moving from the ocean to the river Ganga to Bombay’s Marine Drive waterfront. It invokes the narratives of Biblical prophet Jonah, who escapes death by spending three nights in the belly of a whale, and Melville’s Moby Dick, whose obsessive Captain Ahab chases the eponymous whale who bit off his leg. These poems resurrect the diverse figures who ran ships along the global trade routes of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Hoskote reflects on the city at war with itself, and a planet embattled by ecological and political crisis.
‘Jonahwhale’ retrieves fragments and episodes from the multiple pasts that we inherit; it makes an inquiry into the unregarded legacies of the colonial encounter at sea rather than on land. Ambitious, accessible and rejoicing in the language and beauty of the many stunning connections it makes, this new book establishes Hoskote as one of our most gifted contemporary poets.