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Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India Paperback – 5 Oct 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Export edition (5 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408801531
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408801536
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.8 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,322,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

Book Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Elegant and occasionally elegiac William Dalrymple has written a beautiful and insightful book on the hidden India, a country at once capitalist and modern but also still spiritual and unique. The people who Dalrymple interview are representative of a traditional and devout way of life - but yet their individualism shines through. I was touched, amused and sometimes bewildered by their stories and religious devotion. Nine Lives is Dalrymple's best book since From The Holy Mountain.
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Format: Hardcover
William Dalrymple takes on the biggest subject of all: the human search for the divine. Elegant, sad, wise and moving it is the best and most nuanced book on South Asian spirituality to appear for many years: no wonder it has been top of the bestseller list here in India for weeks. Only someone who has spent many years in the subcontinent would have the depth of knowledge that this book displays and in many ways it is the culmination of Dalrymple's writing career. Even for those of us who grew in this country will find much that is strange and new. A wonderful achievement.
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Format: Hardcover
What a beautiful book....
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.
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Format: Paperback
The publisher does this book no favours by describing it as a "modern Indian Canterbury tales" it is far more than that, it is a well-researched look at how religious devotion survives in a changing country. Several of the nine individuals of this book, have given up possessions, family, and desires in search of spirituality, others such as the idol-maker or the folk minstrels of Rajasthan continue centuries old traditions. For them, God resides in their craft, their story telling, their songs (Bauls), or their paintings (Bhopas). As a tantric devotee says in the book: "you get here what you cannot find anywhere else: pure human beings."

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.
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Format: Hardcover
William Dalrymple is one of my favourite authors.This is his latest book. It is a travel book . There are 9 chapters on his conversations and interactions with 9 persons touching on their respective religious traditions of India. The first chapter is on Mataji, a Jain. The third chapter is on Rani Bai, a devadasi -these are girls given to Hindu temples to serve the Gods but now plying their trade as prostitutes.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As Indians we often take pride in the diversity in our society and justifiably so. Why the hell not I say! But after reading this book you will have much more to be proud of and unfortunately also to be sad about. Proud because you realise how much more diverse the Indian society is, and sad because we will never be able to grasp the magnitude of the diversity in our lifetime and that it will be lost to time sooner rather than later. And to think that India is a fraction of the whole world, it is very sobering thought!

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.
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