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Calcutta Paperback – 29 May 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (29 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571243568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571243563
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 703,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Geoffrey Moorhouse has been described as "one of the best writers of our time" (Byron Rogers, The Times), "a brilliant historian" (Dirk Bogarde, Daily Telegraph) and "a writer whose gifts are beyond" category" (Jan Morris, Independent on Sunday). His numerous books -- travel narratives, histories, novels and sporting prints -- have won prizes and been translated into several languages: To the Frontier won the Thomas Cook Award for the best travel book of its year. In 1982 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 2006 he became Hon DLitt of the University of Warwick. He has recently concentrated on Tudor history, notably with The Pilgrimage of Grace and, in 2005, Great Harry's Navy, which has just been followed by The Last Office: 1539 and the Dissolution of a Monastery. Born in Lancashire, he has lived in a hill village in North Yorkshire for many years.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. Wignell on 8 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm dismayed that only two other people have taken the time to review this truly fantastic book.

This book contains some of the most beautifully written passages you're ever likely to come across. Poetic, wistful, insightful.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By on 11 Nov 1999
Format: Paperback
This books is one of the most realistic portrayals of Calcutta. The author Geoffrey Moorhouse is narrator that is one of its kind. I certainly enjoyed it very much.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Susan Freiman on 9 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
Whether this is good for you depends on what you are looking for. It is dated, and is good or bad for that reason, which is why I give it three stars. If you're looking for history, it's excellent. If you're looking for current information, it's not helpful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Dated but very worthwhile 16 Jun 2006
By Bookmaven - Published on
Format: Unbound
Alas, many faint-hearted tourists hit the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, but avoid Calcutta/Kolkata like the plague. What a shame, for it is a grand city, the home of India's greatest poets, writers and philosophers.

Morhouse opens his excellent book with this: Very few people have ever said anything good about Calcutta, unless they were Bengali. Churchill told his mother: I shall always be glad to have seen it - for the same reason Papa gave for being glad to have seen Lisbon - namely, that it will be unnecessary for me ever to see it again. Mark Twain thought the weather of Calcutta was `enough to make a brass doorknob mushy.'

The research on the early days is excellent and the portraits of the Raj are exquisitely drawn, warts and all - and oh, what warts. Moorhouse tells us of the mixed bunch of men who had only one common trait: they believed in the rectitude of their rule. Some were arrogant - Lord Amherst who never moved from one room to another without being preceded by a column of mace bearers and, riding in the Maiden, who wouldn't allow his wife to approach closer than his horse's backside. One or two genuinely loved as was Lord Canning. The more dangerous were thickly impervious as was Lord Curzon, who wrecked almost every good thing that had preceded him the moment he arrived.

Still if you wander up College Street even today, you'll find `the biggest second-hand book market in the world, shop after shop of literature for perhaps half a mile. And the bookseller will be well content with your company long after he has realized he is not going to make a sale. He is part of a climate that is as inseparable from Calcutta as the monsoon.'

And this quick portrait of a stroll along the main drag: Walking under the arcade, constructed chiefly for the shelter of the British masters, you will fall into step behind a pair of Sikhs who are holding hands or who, if they are not doing that, are each, for some unfathomably Sikh reason, cradling their testicles in one careful palm as though they might suddenly drop off and go rolling down Chowringhee

The book is dated, written in the late 60's and published in 1971. Not updated, it leaves Calcutta in one of its worst times. Says Moorhouse: Breugel would have been at home here.

But read it for its early history and for its still valid portraits of the people and go visit one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Colonialist's Portrait 21 Oct 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is a description of Calcutta from the point of view of a British colonialist. It begins with the history of the city, noting how it was officials from the East Indies Company who selected the site of the city and developed it from wilderness. Later chapters fill out the description of the city by taking up various topics in turn. These topics include economics, population, colonial buildings and institutions, development since independence, and 1960s local politics.

Overall, the text is somewhat informative, though the prose can be rather dull. Moorhouse does a decent job at juxtaposing historic details with his own personal experiences in Calcutta. However, from his descriptions, he comes across as a British colonialist lamenting the direction the world has taken since granting independence to the colonies. To the extent that his observations about life in Calcutta are valid at all, they are clearly primarily shaped by his background and point of view.
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