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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Word of mouth
"India" describes Naipaul's anti-clockwise journey around the metropoles of India in 1988, from Bombay to Srinagar via Bangalore, Madras, Calcutta, Delhi and Amritsar. His theme is that India, seen from the distance of his Trinadadian childhood, appeared as a single, unified entity. Close-up in 1988, however, he saw how it decomposes into a collage of religions,...
Published on 19 July 2002 by A.K.

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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars On going `home' after a hundred years...
V.S. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. He is of Indian (as in East India) extraction. His ancestors left the Gangetic plain over a hundred and thirty years ago. They were part of another diaspora who settled, and very much helped run, Britain's vast empire. He was born and raised in Trinidad, and educated at Oxford. He has been a prolific writer, with...
Published on 2 Jan 2012 by John P. Jones III


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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Word of mouth, 19 July 2002
By 
"India" describes Naipaul's anti-clockwise journey around the metropoles of India in 1988, from Bombay to Srinagar via Bangalore, Madras, Calcutta, Delhi and Amritsar. His theme is that India, seen from the distance of his Trinadadian childhood, appeared as a single, unified entity. Close-up in 1988, however, he saw how it decomposes into a collage of religions, castes and classes. That diversity, for Naipaul, is India's strength. He sees each social group's struggle for security as the motor of India economic, political and social advances since the 1960s.
Reading between the lines, however, you can tell that Naipaul has mixed feelings about India. Apart from the revulsion at the filth and decay, he can not hide his despair of the Indian character. He sees Indians as self-destructive, always letting unnecessary foibles and squabbles obstruct progress. For Naipaul the class-warriors of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu have replaced a wise culture with a wasteland, the self-regarding idleness of Bengalis has turned Calcutta into a sewer and the Sikhs of Northwest India are persecuted because, deep down, that is their raison d'être.
It's a point of view.
The format of "India" is almost oral history or anthropology. He lets Indians, mostly middle- and upper-class, tell the stories of their lives. Gradually these tales coalesce in the reader's mind and Naipaul's collage of caste, class and ethnicity emerges. The language is clear and engaging; it is hard to imagine a more entertaining introduction to the social processes at work in modern India. Naipaul's own viewpoint emerges gradually between the lines. And he is honest about his own place in the book, not glamorising his trip with chichi exoticism like your average poncey travel-writer, but just making himself a man who travels from hotel to hotel and talks to Indians.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting and Often Insightful Perspective of India, 18 Aug 2010
By 
Jennifer Malsingh (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
On top of my long-standing interest in all things Indian, I picked up this book for two reasons. First, I have read some of Naipaul's fictional works and have enjoyed them immensely. Secondly, like Naipaul, I have Indo-Trinidadian ancestry and was therefore interested to see what he made of India.

It is very clear that Naipaul has very mixed feelings about India. On the one hand, it is the land, spiritually and physically, of his ancestors. On the other hand, it is a reminder of the poverty and desolation that his ancestors "escaped" from to make a new life in Trinidad. In fact, as with many people of Indian ancestry who are brought up abroad, Naipaul grew up with the idea of a united India, a land of one people and one culture. Indeed, this idea would have been (and continues to be) a great comfort and source of identity for his community in Trinidad. However, on his first visit to India this idea was destroyed. As he explored the land of his forefathers, Naipaul discovered that in India, being "Indian" isn't enough. State, language, religion, caste, sub-caste, family, village - these were all much more important in terms of how a person fitted in with the world. Thus, despite the fact that he was brought up exposed to at least some aspects of the food, language (some of the women in his family at least probably spoke a little Hindi), culture and religion (Hinduism) of India, Naipaul would have been as much a foreigner as anyone else making their first trip to India. The good news is that this puts him at a good enough distance away to be able to make insightful observations about India. The bad news is that occasionally a glimpse of his resentment and complicated feelings about India does come in and could perhaps cloud his judgement.

This book was written after Naipaul had made a few trips to India, and it is clear that he has come to terms with some of the alien-ness that must no doubt have assailed him on his first visit. He seems mostly at ease moving around between different states and cities, and also has many contacts who he calls upon from time to time. He also occasionally recalls his previous experiences. On the other hand, although he may be more used to India, he is not really reconciled to certain aspects of India and Indian people. It is evident that he retains quite a bit of frustration for the way that Indian people think and act. However, it must be pointed out that his frustration and desire for India and its people to better themselves is clearly an indication of his deep-seated affection for the country: basically, he gets annoyed because he cares!

The book is mostly a collection of interviews and interactions with various people from different areas of India, as Naipaul travels around, sometimes going back to places he has been and people he has met on previous trips. He has a knack for interviewing some very interesting people, and he lets them tell their stories as they see them. Of course, he does also provide his own analysis, which he uses to back up his own theories, but the beauty of this book is that you don't always have to agree with Naipaul to enjoy the accounts of or learn from the people he meets. Occasionally he does come across as a bit know-it-all and oblivious, as he ignores the reason actually put forward by the person he is interviewing and instead proposes his own interpretation which is sometimes a little scathing, but I suppose he is just trying to be insightful.

The overall theme of the book is the changes that India has been and continues to go through. It is clear that Naipaul is unhappy with many of the changes. Another theme is the way the mini revolutions/ "mutinies" of different communities in India, for instance, the pro-Dravidian movement in the South and the various communist movements in the North East. The picture it paints is of a country with many different groups of people, who don't always find it easy to get along, and often feel that they must try and make their mark on the country and define their place in it. From my experiences, this is quite an accurate portrayal.

On the whole, it is a very interesting book and well thought out. I myself don't completely agree with everything that Naipaul says, but I do see where he is coming from and it is refreshing to have a book about India that doesn't just gloss over some of the less savoury aspects of this enormous, convoluted country.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'must read' for any one wanting to know more about India, 22 Dec 1999
By A Customer
Beyond the popular images of Taj Mahal, the bengal tiger and the curry, researchers and visitors to India had to settle for either the travel guides variety giving a lot of 'nuts and bolts' information ('don't drink tap water - carry enough mosquito repellent') or esoteric tomes specialising on specific philosophical, religious or cultural dimensions. Not any more. Naipaul's book 'India- a million mutinies now', is a good account of life in India from a thousand voices - honestly reported by the author without being judgemental. To me that is the beauty of this book - to remind the reader that the greatest asset of India is not the set of things it possesses but its people. So very humane. A joy to read.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for India rediscoverers, 15 Aug 2002
By 
Rohit Tiwari "rohittiwari" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book was written during the political and social upheaval of late eighties India.Naipaul has been extremely successful in interpreting those changing times in Indian history. Naipaul has magnificently deciphered the role of class, caste, religion,and region in making of a new and stronger India. Contrary to belief this book establishes the argument that diversity is this new India's biggest srength and perhaps a major cause of democratic success. This is a book for any one who wants to get deeper into knowing India. It is not a backpacker's account of mysticism of India.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous introduction to India, 30 Dec 2006
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This is an excellent and thoughtful introduction to what India means to its population of Jains, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and others: the book comprises extended conversations with people the author met in his travels round India and his largely generous and non-judgemental reflections upon them, as he make senses of what he hears and sees and learns.

The only pieces I felt slightly unsure about were those (admittedly fascinating but somewhat negative) chapters about Sikhs: perhaps these reflect the time at which the book was written (it was published first in 1988).

I'ld recommend this unreservedly to anyone interested in the sub-Continent.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars On going `home' after a hundred years..., 2 Jan 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
V.S. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. He is of Indian (as in East India) extraction. His ancestors left the Gangetic plain over a hundred and thirty years ago. They were part of another diaspora who settled, and very much helped run, Britain's vast empire. He was born and raised in Trinidad, and educated at Oxford. He has been a prolific writer, with more than 30 books to his credit, fairly evenly divided, between fiction and non-fiction. I've read several of his works, and have particularly admired the novel A House for Mr Biswas. His brother, Shiva, also wrote extensively, and I felt that he was the keener and more empathetic observer, particularly of regions of the world once called "Third World." Regrettably, Shiva died far too young, in 1985. Perhaps if he had lived longer, he would have been the one who won the Nobel. V.S. has had his critics, notably Edward Said, but certainly others, who feel that he adapted far too well to the colonial attitudes of the country whose citizenship he would take. Since it was politically "incorrect" for white men to express those attitudes in the post-colonial era, there have been some pithy formulations that capture V.S.' role as a mouthpiece for these attitudes, and they would not make it past the censor of the reviews, and would be politically incorrect themselves.

One does not have to go beyond page one of the foreword for an example of the attitude: "Arabia, lucky again, has spread beyond its deserts." Economic and social advancement is solely a product of "luck"? Any hard work involved? Or skillful political decisions taken? Or all the other factors that result in a more successful outcome than that dictated by pure "luck"? Naipaul's first visit to India occurred in 1962. This book is based on his visit in 1976, during "the Emergency" rule of Indira Gandhi, admittedly not an ideal time. Still, the overall feel of the book is that Naipaul went to India in search of the anecdotes to confirm his pre-existing opinions. Find the negative, and expound. Furthermore, during his brief visit he believes he can: "An inquiry about India- even an inquiry about the Emergency- has quickly to go beyond the political. It has to be an inquiry about Indian attitudes..." Yes, the common attitudes of some billion people!

Naipaul is particularly critical of Mahatma Gandhi, and yes, admittedly he was more than a bit "quirky" if you've read his autobiography, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Naipaul refers to "India's intellectual second-rateness" (p 109). He continues to propound that viewpoint throughout the book: "To survive in subjection, they have preserved their sanctuary of the instinctive, uncreative life, converting that into a religious ideal; at a more worldly level, they have depended on others for the ideas and institutions that make a country work" (p. 144). His last chapter is entitled "Renaissance or Continuity"? and there is little doubt which side he foresees: "The stability of Gandhian India was an illusion; and India will not be stable again for a long time...These are only aspects of the larger crisis, which is that of a decaying civilization, where the only hope lies in further swift decay." (!) (Explanation point added!)

I've read his critical book on Islam Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey almost three decades ago, and will soon give it a much more critical re-read. As for India, fortunately it has proven stable, resilient, and capable of evolving its own solutions and has become an ascendant global power in the 21st century. For a much better portrait of the country, I'd recommend the recently published In Spite Of The Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce, and for a much better, more empathetic book on India, set in the same period that Naipaul writes, I'd recommend Ved Mehta's Portrait of India As for Naipaul's dyspeptic view, I'd only give it 2-stars.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deals Frankly with the Difficult Issues of Modern India, 19 Feb 2002
By A Customer
I found this book very useful in helping to explain the unpleasant side of things in India which I kept seeing day after day in the course of several (otherwise wonderful) trips there. Mr Naipaul is excellent in not pulling any punches about the the unpleasant side of India - I mean the India that is proverbial with poverty, inept government and inefficiency, that any traveller has to deal with while still enjoying the wonderful sights and sounds of its fascinating culture. This book does not play up the fairy tale India of the guidebooks but helps a visitor who is aware of the realities of India enjoy all the interesting things about it, too. Perhaps it takes an (ethnic) Indian to lay it all out for the reader, fearlessly. This book will probably best appeal to a western traveller who is not floundering in his life back at home and is not travelling to India for any kind of "spiritual enlightenment." It will most appeal to the detached visitor who wants to see the best of the east without having to pretend everything is perfect (as a few too many books on India do).
Naipaul's other two books on India are very fine and informative also.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you think, 5 Aug 2011
By 
JohnEurope (Sonthofen Germany) - See all my reviews
India, A Million Mutinies Now was lent to me by a non-native English speaker who had found the book "heavy going" and could not get on with it. The start was also difficult for me but once I got going, it was fascinating.

Although I have been to India on a couple of business trips and have worked several years with many Indian people, I had no well founded idea about the country and its people.

Mr Naipaul, born in Trinidad of Indian origins, relates in this book, his experiences, and those of the people with whom he meets, in a detailed and enthralling way. His style is easy to read and transmitted to me the feeling that I was sometimes present at his "interviews". The enormous success that V.S. Naipaul has deservedly enjoyed over the years, enables him, during this India visit, to meet and speak with people with whom the average visitor would not meet and to cover subjects which the average visitor would not consider. Mr Naipaul realises that and takes the time to give his reader the necessary insight.

This book can be strongly recommended as just a very good read but the information about India is an extra bonus.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant essay, 3 Jun 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This is not academic work that tries to cover an issue from some kind of systematic methodology that is currently in fashion. Instead, it is an extremely dense essay by an original novelist on what makes India what it is: chaotic, without a sense of historical continuity - his contrast with the European narrative that moves from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance/Reformation and Enlightenment to the industrial democracies is absolutely fascinating and yet deliciously succinct - and struggling to forge a modern identity in the post-colonial independence. What the reader gets is an interpretation, the details of which (s)he must fill in or debate oneself. Naipaul even does brilliant literary criticism of contemporary Indian novels in this book to shed light on his ideas, which as anecdotal and quirky as they are are always interesting. Disagree we might, but he stimulates even in error. Even after almost 30 years from its original publication, this essay is worth the read, if only to explore the reasoning behind rejecting it (I couldn't totally).

Warmly recommended.
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15 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lighten Up, Mr Naipaul, 24 Jan 2002
By A Customer
Naipaul knows India better than most. He also won a Nobel, in part for his style of writing, and it is amazing at times. For me, though, Naipaul is a cynical non-believer writing about a land whose strongest face is its dignified people, their Gods and their loves. That all gets missed out because VS Nightfall is interested in other factors of measuring a nation's success. He makes very important points but they are not the whole story of this land, there's a big chip on his shoulder, and at times this book is so terribly tedious you will want to stop. Mostly good, often excellent, but there are other ways of looking: Paul William Robert's "Empire of the Soul" for example, which is also FUN. This book is only definitive when read with other outstanding works, of which there are many.
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India: A Million Mutinies Now
India: A Million Mutinies Now by V. S. Naipaul (Paperback - 3 Sep 2010)
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