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City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi Paperback – 30 Apr 1996
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‘Delightful … Surely one of the funniest books about India’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Scholarly and marvellously entertaining … a considerable feat’ Dervla Murphy, Spectator
‘Dalrymple has pulled it off again’ Jan Morris, Independent
From the Back Cover
Alive with the mayhem of the present and sparkling with William Dalrymple’s irrepressible wit, 'City of Djinns' is a fascinating portrait of a city.
Watched over and protected by the mischievous, invisible djinns, Delhi has, through their good offices, been saved from destruction many times over the centuries. With an extraordinary array of characters, from elusive eunuchs to the last remnants of the Raj, Dalrymple’s second book is a unique and dazzling feat of research. Over the course of a year he comes to know the bewildering city intimately, and brilliantly conveys its magical nature, peeling back successive layers of history, and interlacing innumerable stories from Delhi’s past and present.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Delhi is a city that i love and i love it for all the reasons given in City of Djinns. This book is a complete picture of a city ravaged and re built, destroyed and recreated but What makes Dalrymple's Delhi different is that it takes a human shape, a face you recognise.
All events past and present in City of Djjins are within the grasp of the reader. Dalrymple writes about the Persian Massacre, Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the bloody Partition of 1947 but never taking you too far from the present day rickshaw noises or the eunuchs inhabiting the mysterious inner streets of old Delhi so one is not weighed down by history rather mediating between the two worlds.
Dalrymple is profound, sensitive but above all witty. On the ever changing modern day Delhi I quote the author, "Delhi was starting to unbutton. After the long victorian twilight the sari was beginning to slip".
It was only after reading this book for the first time about six months ago that I realized what I was missing out on, and since then I have made an attempt to set out and rediscover the city and its forgotten jewels. It amazes me how the author can see so much poetry in what appears to be a crumbling mass of ruins to the lay observer. Sometimes his description of the architectural features of a church or mosque or temple or tomb is a bit too erudite for me to fully comprehend, and then I have to look up the terms that he uses and agonize over photographs of that particular edifice, trying to see what all the fuss is about, but I think that's what really makes the book so delightful-there is a different and beautiful-sounding word for everything that is described.
The book, I thought, is very delicately structured, which is in keeping with the subject-Delhi, for all its bustle, lacks the cheery boldness of say, Mumbai, another great Indian city. There is a certain fragility about Delhi, which becomes more obvious as you venture into the Walled City, and it is exactly this elusive quality that Mr. Dalrymple has captured so beautifully in his book.
his own experiences and more on unpeeling the multiple and intriguing layers of Delhi's history. This is not to say he is an invisible presence in the book, but that his personal account acts more as an access point for historical discovery than a narrative in itself - Paul Theroux this is not. 'A Year in Delhi' finds Dalrymple digging deeper and deeper into Delhi's history throughout his trip, unravelling the various epochs of the city, from the British Raj to the roots of The Mahabharata. At once amusing and erudite, Dalrymple also has a gift for sketching the surreal characters he meets along the way, from Sufi mystics and taxi drivers to his eccentric landlady. This must be the definitive travel companion for a trip to this fascinating and ancient city.
A very elderly Englishwoman, relic of the Raj, now shares a tin hut with a cobra and a posse of peacocks. ("I do hate waking up in the middle of the night to find a peacock in bed with me.") An astute Muslim scholar devotes himself to prayer and study, educating Dalrymple in the ways of Islam. An Indian gardener invents an Urdu-esque English dialect (flowerpots become fell-i-puts and hollyhocks are holi-ul-haqs) and the whole team is overseen by 'the Essex Man of the East', Balvinder Singh. His taxi always at your service.
At once humorous and poignant, "City of Djinns" is a testimony to a lifestyle that has now vanished for good. It made me wish I had been born thirty years earlier so I could have snatched a glimpse of it before it perished. In the words of one of Dalrymple's Anglo-Indian interviewees: "...in the end you can only go away and die in Cheltenham. And that,' Iris said with a sigh, 'is exactly what we did."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting , delightful insights into social and historic Delhi . One of the most engaging travel writers. After reading this I longed to visit India .Published 2 months ago by harpandrecorder
A really interesting study of remnants from different ages of Delhi.Published 6 months ago by Sewmouse
A very interesting account of Delhi under the Murghals, and of how it changed following partition.Published 7 months ago by JKR
a mixed salad...going from impressions, which come perilously close to parody, and "look at the funny native"-condescension, to large swaths of history, breathlessly... Read morePublished 10 months ago by april
I read this book a few years ago and am presently enjoying it over again!It is a very well written book with evocative descriptions of both Delhi and the Indian people. Read morePublished 10 months ago by pepiann
City of Djins is the second book by William Dalrymple and is an account of a year spent in Delhi together with his wife, the artist Olivia Fraser. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Mark