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Nine Lives: Encounters with the Holy in Modern India Hardcover – 5 Oct 2009
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`William Dalrymple's Nine Lives takes the charm and natural verve of City of Djinns, marries it to the intellectual and spiritual engagement of From the Holy Mountain, and brings it off with all the narrative skill developed in his history books, combined with his ever more profound understanding of India.'
"Any of these stories could make a great film or play, they are so full of passion, tragedy, violence, compassion, and religious fervor, and so vividly evoked; . . . Their human concerns, not unlike ours, melt seamlessly into the bizarre, almost unimaginable circumstances of their ritual life, and eventually we see that that,too, is quite human, that there is nothing weird at all about drinking
warm blood or pulling out your hair by the roots. Only a brilliant writer like Dalrymple could bring off this astonishing and unprecedented revelation of the humanity of people on the farthest extremes of religious ecstasy" --Wendy Doniger
"I was enchanted by these poignant and magical stories. By artfully weaving together travel, history, and legend--all without guile--he creates a compelling narrative, reminding us why India is one of the world's greatest story telling cultures, and why he is one of its greatest story tellers" --Gurcharan das
"Any book by William Dalrymple is good news, but a travel book after close to a decade calls for a dash to the bookshop instead of a click on Amazon. Nine Lives, Dalrymple's first travel book after two exhilarating expeditions into Indian history, is a risky enterprise.
It is difficult for anyone, let alone "Westerners", to write about Indian religious traditions without slithering into Orientalist, New Ageist or Hindutva tropes. It is even more risky to narrate Indian religious beliefs against the template of today's India, which is itself a half-mythical being in the throes of constant change. But Dalrymple has managed to do so, and with aplomb." --Tabish Khair, Hindustan Times
'His most ambitious yet, taking the reader into lurid, scarcely imaginable worlds of mysticism ... Dalrymple has an inimitable way of conjuring the Indian landscape' -- Financial Times
`This is travel writing at its best. I hope it sparks a revival' -- Observer
`Beautifully written, ridiculously erudite and, more than any of his previous work, reveals Dalrymple to be remarkably warm - and open-hearted ... a towering talent' -- The Times
`William Dalrymple's Nine Lives takes the charm and natural verve of City of Djinns, marries it to the intellectual and spiritual engagement of From the Holy Mountain, and brings it off with all the narrative skill developed in his history books, combined with his ever more profound understanding of India.' --Maya Jasanoff
'Full of passion, tragedy, violence, compassion, and religious fervor, and so vividly evoked...
Only a brilliant writer like Dalrymple could bring off this astonishing and unprecedented revelation of the humanity of people on the farthest extremes of religious ecstasy.' --Wendy Doniger
`I was enchanted by these poignant and magical stories. By artfully weaving together travel, history, and legend--all without guile--he creates a compelling narrative, reminding us why India is one of the world's greatest story telling cultures, and why he is one of its greatest story tellers.' --Gurcharan Das
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. His most recent book, The Last Mughal, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. He lives with his wife and three children on a farm outside Dehli.
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To my mind, what WD manages so successfully in this book is to be a transparent medium between his interviewees and his audiences without falling pray to the temptation of interpreting/judging his interviewees' actions or their way of life. And you are always kept glued to their lives and their stories by way of wonderful writing. I can easily imagine 100 ways how this exercise could have turned out to be journalistic or preachy. I was struck by WD's ability to be nonjudgmental and honesty. Superb effort.
Highly recommended for anyone and everyone.
With examples of the lives of Jains, Tantrics, Brahamins, and Sufis amongst others, this is a great reminder that every individual person has a story to tell which is worth hearing.
He says in the introduction that he has tried hard to remove himself from the stories, that he wanted to properly highlight the voices of those he was featuring. And so we have a book a short stories, concise, perfectly rounded and superbly judged.
The focus here is on those who are part of the amazing range of India's religious and mystical life. I wont't go on -- you should read them for yourself.
The are lovingly written stories about fascinating people, often who live their lives in extraordinary circumstances.
I hope its not another decade before we see the next fruits of Dalrynmple's travels.
This guy is immersed in Indian culture from the 80s and his breath of knowledge and insights are amazing.
In some ways it's elegiac - the pressures and tensions of modernity increasingly threaten millennia old traditions, for example those who can recite epics for days would seem to be a dying breed, and the 'holy harlots' in the temples (devadasis) are barely different now from rural sex workers, riddled with HIV.
I found it uplifting, moving and enlightening. The author wears his considerable depth of knowledge lightly, and writes clearly and well, he doesn't get in the way of his subjects, rather he draws them out as he gets to know them. It's a great read!