Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India Paperback – 5 Oct 2009
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'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
Award-winning, critically acclaimed, internationally bestselling William Dalrymple takes us to the heart of an undiscovered India --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Dalrymple has outshone himself from simply being a brilliant historian to the most compassionate, empathetic and erudite story-teller of modern India. Each of the stories in this poignantly sensitive book have been dealt with such love, humility and understanding towards the protagonist in the story, that the writer almost disappears as a non judgmental narrative voice in the background. Its almost like seeing the story visually with Dalrymple's kind voice in the background. Kind because, he treats his characters with such respect and kindness. Even though, there is an air of melancholy permeating through the pages; the reader carries after completing each story - a feeling of depth, satisfaction and sense of gratitude to have just read about an almost mythical hero living amongst us. Dalrymple has shown us in this book, his fine art of seeing the 'profound in the profane' once again.
For a sensitive reader like me, this is a rare piece of art.
Dalrymple already has a well-deserved reputation as a historian and travel writer, and some see this book as being in the travel-writing genre. I think it tries to go further and examine the human condition. Dalrymple allows each of the nine to tell their own story and provides some background research on the different groups. That is interesting as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Dalrymple's is too detached as an observer, and in too much of a hurry as he criss-crosses the country to really understand the context of his subjects' lives.
In the 1930s the philosopher-traveller Dr Paul Brunton wrote "A Search In Secret India", recounting his travels seeking out renowned mystics, fakirs and other holy men, to understand what makes them and their followers tick. That vivid and compelling book is still in print, and for good reason. Brunton is more adept and analytical, able to better convey the spirituality of his subjects. Dalrymple's "Nine Lives" has much the same aims, but each chapter remains just a snapshot that falls well short of Brunton's masterpiece in drawing us into his subjects' state of mind.
Dalrymple said that the idea for this book was born 16 years ago in 1993 when he was corkscrewing up a Himalayan trail. He does not identify when his interviews took place. It is therefore difficult to envisage when and how India's traditional forms of religious life have been transformed in the vortex of the region's rapid change.If you are looking for a history book on India's religious traditions this is not for you. But if your interest is in the travel genre do read this book.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely fascinating insight into the lives of nine people of Indian descent. Certainly opens your eyes to this extraordinary continent. Highly recommended.Published 7 days ago by Jilly Short
I bought this to take to India, I read the first 2 stories and agonizingly left it on a boat crossing the Andaman Islands. I will buy it again to read the other stories. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Henning
LOVE THIS BOOK !
such a great read, easy style and informative at the same time. great and highly recommended.