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The Age of Kali Indian Travels and Encounters [Hardcover]

William Dalrymple
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Nov 1998

The fourth book from the most acclaimed and gifted young travel writer of his generation, author of the best-selling In Xanadu, City of Djinns and From the Holy Mountain.

William Dalrymple, who wrote so magically about India in City of Djinns, returns to the country in a series of remarkable essays. Featured in the pages of Indian Ink are fifteen-year-old guerrilla girls and dowager Maharanis; flashy Bombay drinks parties and violent village blood feuds; a group of vegetarian terrorists intent on destroying India’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet; and a palace where port and cigars are still carried to guests on a miniature silver steam train.
In the course of his travels Dalrymple meets such figures as Imran Khan, Ismail Merchant, Benazir Bhutto and Baba Sehgal, the Indian Gary Glitter; he witnesses the macabre nightly offering to the bloodthirsty goddess Parashakti – She Who is Seated on a Throne of Five Corpses; he experiences civil war in Kashmir and caste massacres in the badlands of Bihar, and dines with a drug baron on the North-West Frontier; he discovers such oddities as the terrorist apes of Jaipur (only brought to book when the municipality began impregnating their bananas with opium); and the shrine where Lord Krishna is said to make love every night to his 16,108 wives and 64,732 milkmaids.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition/second printing edition (2 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002555107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002555104
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 272,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twenty-two. City of Djinns won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award. The Age of Kali won the French Prix D'Astrolabe and White Mughals won the Wolfson Prize for History 2003 and the Scottish Book of the Year Prize. The Last Mughal was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. His most recent book, Nine Lives, was published in 2009 to huge acclaim. He lives with his wife and three children on a farm outside Dehli.

(Photo credit: Karoki Lewis)

Product Description

Amazon Review

William Dalrymple has proved himself to be one of the most perceptive and enjoyable travel writers of the 1990s. His first book In Xanadu became an instant back-packer's classic, winning a stream of literary prizes. City of Djinns and From the Holy Mountain soon followed, to universal critical praise. Yet it is to India where Dalrymple continues to return in his travels, and his fourth book The Age of Kali is his most reflective book to date.

The result of 10 year's living and travelling throughout the Indian subcontinent, The Age of Kali emerges from Dalrymple's uneasy sense that the region is slipping into the most fearsome of all epochs in ancient Hindu cosmology: "the Kali Yug, the Age of Kali, the lowest possible throw, an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness and disintegration". The brilliance of this book lies in its refusal to slip into the cultural pessimism of books such as V.S. Naipaul's Beyond Belief. Dalrymple's love for the subcontinent, and his feel for its diverse cultural identity, comes across in every page, which makes its chronicles of political corruption, ethnic violence and social disintegration all the more poignant. The scope of the book is particularly impressive, from the vivid opening chapters portraying the lawless caste violence of Bihar, to interviews with the drug barons on the North-West Frontier, and Dalrymple's extraordinary encounter with the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Some of the most fascinating sections of the book are Dalrymple's interviews with Imran Khan and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, which read like non-fictional companion pieces to Salman Rushdie's bitterly satirical Shame. The Age of Kali is a dark, disturbing book which takes the pulse of a continent facing some tough questions. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

‘Dalrymple is probably the best travel writer of his generation’
Daily Mail

‘The future of travel writing lies in the hands of gifted authors like Dalrymple’
Sara Wheeler, Independent


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I adored this book. Instead of the usual bland statements of a by-stander on the look-out for material for a book, Dalrymple has very obviously written a book about what he has seen in the course of many years' dedicated observation and investigation. The writing is as consistently finely-tuned as his observations, and his depth of knowledge enables him to throw light with what appears to be great ease on complex cultural, historical and religious issues.
I was born in India, left at the age of two and have returned for numerous visits since. Such entertaining and informative writing helps to explain and endear a country about which, on some levels, I know a fair amount, and on other levels I have often felt at a great loss to even begin to comprehend. In particular, the chapter about Hyderabad, fascinated me. My mother has often told stories of the great wealth and beauty of the city when she was growing up there in an affluent Muslim neighbourhood, but having seen it only in the 1970s to 1990s, I found these stories slightly unbelievable. Reading Dalrymple's book will certainly make me look at the city in a new light next time I visit, as it has explained the context and history of it with an insight and an interest that I have not found elsewhere.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spicy Bombay mix 11 Jan 2000
Format:Paperback
This set of journalistic essays on the state of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) in the 1990s should be essential reading for every visitor to this remarkable part of the world. The topics are wide-ranging, shocking, disturbing, uplifting and always absorbing. From political corruption to the Bombay glitterati to religious fervour and the caste system, William Dalrymple provides insights into numerous aspects of contemporary India. A lesson in history, economics, politics, religion, not to mention bigotry, hatred and corruption. A clash between the new and the old and the present day problems caused by this in Indian society is the overwhelming theme. He has a most readable style and his own fascination comes across in his writing. It reminded me intensely of why I both loved and hated India when I travelled there - and also made me ashamed of knowing so little of the local way of life (a bit like the narrator of "Are you experienced?" when he meets the journalist!) I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snapshots of the subcontinent 2 July 2007
Format:Paperback
William Dalrymple's 'The Age of Kali' carries the subtitle 'Indian Travels and Encounters' but actually includes writings on Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion (in fact a département of France). It is less a historical analysis in the mold of the brilliant 'City of Djinns' but a collection of essays and articles, most of which were previously commissioned and published by magazines and newspapers. Much more jounalistic in style, it is arguably more informal than some of his other books, but no less engaging or informative for that. His obvious love for the sub-continent is reflected in a gently ironic voice that somehow makes light work of the tales of atrocity, corruption and ineptitude here. He is not as pessimistic or misanthropic as Paul Theroux, and is able to imbue his descriptions of even the most hopeless situations with a comic absurdity. Although the content of the book is highly contemporaneous - the pace of development in India and the shifting political landscape post-911 makes parts of the book seem a little dated - the book gives a comprehensive overview of the forces at work on the subcontinent.

Whereas 'City of Djinns' and his later work 'White Mughals' were heavy on historical narratives and anecdotes, 'The Age of Kali' finds the author a more visible presence. Like in his stunning debut 'In Xanadu', the book leaves you impressed by his bravery in pursuit of his subject. From accessing the base camps of the Tamil Tigers to travelling the lawless mountain routes of Northern Pakistan, Dalrymple builds a vivid and remarkable picture of the region seldom exposed by journalists of any nationality, and often with considerable personal risk.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, breathtaking and real 31 July 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
William Dalrymple's "Age of Kali" is one on the best books about the Indian way of life that I've read.
Having travelled across India I can safely say that reading this book is almost as good as being there. You can "feel" India, you can hear it and you can smell it as you sit, transported. I loved every inch of India and I loved every word in this great book.
Not since James Cameron's "Indian Summer" and Vikram Seth's "Suitable Boy" have I felt this way.
Wonderful!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a must for anybody who loves or hates India 27 Oct 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The first time I visited India (1984)it was a great experience, but I felt it could well be the last time I'd been there. The fact that we had to stay four more days because of another mistake by Air India (does that sound familiar?) might have had something to do with this. Well after that first visit I've been back four times, so I'm seriously addicted to this fascinating country and it's inhabitants. The moment I'm out of the airport and into the bustle totally at home. Unlike lots of other travelogues William Daymple's book gives the same feeling of coming home, of feeling at home in India. And that's exactly the reason I like it very much.But even if you visited India and htd it, this book is a must. After reading it you know exactly why you never want to go back again. Or maybe ou might one day?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Another piece in the Indian puzzle
Dalrymple is not a prolific writer. The reason is sheer depth of research and analysis. I love India but one can never visit and know all, one would need to spend a lifetim in each... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Paul Comerford
3.0 out of 5 stars Daren't say I liked it because some of it is really shocking
Some of this is really shocking. I remember reading it on a train quite a while ago, and being shocked how different it was from the picture I had previously been given of India... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Sally Burdyke
5.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Kali: Travels and Encounters in India
William Dalrymple is synonimous to unstoppable reading, increasing researched detail and history at its best. His writing on India is fascinating.
Published 19 months ago by Maria Teresa Canelhas
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but depressing
A very good and insightful book, though very depressing. I agree with another review that states one could easily get the impression that all Indians kill others and themselves,... Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by D. D. Modhvadia
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work
On the whole, I am a Dalrymple fan, but this isn't his best. It takes the form of a series of relatively unconnected chapters, more and anthology of articles than a coherent book. Read more
Published on 9 Jun 2011 by Stephen Vaughan
1.0 out of 5 stars predictable, shallow and sensational
I picked up this book knowing I wasn't going to get anything new, as I am Indian. However, behind the artful facade of "look at me, how much I love India" is a collection of... Read more
Published on 14 Feb 2011 by seldon
5.0 out of 5 stars india explained
I have read a few of the author,s books and he gives a wonderfully descriptive view of the real india, he obviously loves the place and gives an insight into how india works with... Read more
Published on 6 Feb 2011 by drabbs
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful observations coupled with clear prose
Dalrymple really understands India. That much is clear from this work. "The Age of Kali" is full of insightful observations, linked with details on history and culture. Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2011 by HW
3.0 out of 5 stars The good bits are good.
I was recommended this book by a Sikh from Lucknow.
At first I was very enthusiastic. However Dalrymple makes occasional comparisons with Europe and I realised that, while he... Read more
Published on 7 Dec 2010 by Mrs. RM KLEPPMANN
4.0 out of 5 stars Opening a culture, all sides of it
When approaching a culture both as diversified and an entigrated whole as India from the outside, one needs both respect and just the right amount of effrontery. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2010 by Tapani
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