William Dalrymple has proved himself to be one of the most perceptive and enjoyable travel writers of the 1990s. His first book, In Xanadu, became an instant backpacker's classic, winning a stream of literary prizes. City of Djinns and From the Holy Mountain soon followed, to universal critical praise. Yet it is India that Dalrymple continues to return to in his travels, and his fourth book, The Age of Kali, is his most reflective book to date.
The result of 10 year's living and traveling throughout the Indian subcontinent, The Age of Kali emerges from Dalrymple's uneasy sense that the region is slipping into the most fearsome of all epochs in ancient Hindu cosmology: "the Kali Yug, the Age of Kali, the lowest possible throw, an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness, and disintegration." The brilliance of this book lies in its refusal to reflect any cultural pessimism. Dalrymple's love for the subcontinent, and his feel for its diverse cultural identity, comes across in every page, which makes its chronicles of political corruption, ethnic violence, and social disintegration all the more poignant. The scope of the book is particularly impressive, from the vivid opening chapters portraying the lawless caste violence of Bihar, to interviews with the drug barons on the North-West Frontier, and Dalrymple's extraordinary encounter with the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Some of the most fascinating sections of the book are Dalrymple's interviews with Imran Khan and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, which read like nonfiction companion pieces to Salman Rushdie's bitterly satirical Shame. The Age of Kali is a dark, disturbing book that takes the pulse of a continent facing some tough questions. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk
Spotlight customer reviews:
Customer Rating: Summary: Well-researched... Comment: This book was a fascinating and sad eye-opener, especially for someone who knows so little about India outside of one major city. The author has done his research. Bill Bryson couldn't have done better. Customer Rating: Summary: Not so much travels, lots of encounters Comment: There are only a few things I'd like to add to the existing reviews of this book:
1. In this book Mr Dalrymple is not really a traveller/travel writer, but more of a political journalist. He visits various regions and discusses their political situation/problems, with an in-depth look at the Bhutto Dynasty in Pakistan wrapping up the book. If you're looking for travel literature about India, look elsewhere!
2. In addition to the stories from a few chosen regions in India, the book also has quite a bit about Pakistan in it, as well as a visit to Reunion, which actually is a piece of French territory, very close to Madagascar. The link to India is fairly weak, and it seems as if it was just included to make the book sufficiently thick.
For what it is, though, it's a decent piece of literature! Customer Rating: Summary: Few writers with as much skill as William Dalrymple Comment: Some writers work harder than others. They write better than others. And they do it in a way that's so fluid and relaxed. William Dalrymple surely is one of those. You could pick up a Dalrymple book blindly, and expect to enter a world that's interesting, rich, crazy, chaotic and wonderful all at once.
I've read most of his books. And I'd say you just couldn't go wrong with William Dalrymple--or the Age of Kali for that matter. Customer Rating: Summary: Really good read, really crappy book Comment: Wonderfull stories from India and Pakistan - unusual and well-told, but my Lonely Planet edition began to fall apart the moment I opened the book. After three days, all the pages fell out. Sorry about that, sez LP. Uh, yeah, thanks. Customer Rating: Summary: Fascinating and Intriguing Comment: Age of Kali is a fascinating read. I have been to or lived at many places Dalrymple writes about in this book and so I can relate to what he says.
I must admit that insights that he brings out are much deeper than my own even when I spent years living in those places. The most interesting chapters are that of Vrindavan, Sri Lanka and Hyderabad. The section on Bombay was a bit of a drag, particularly when after having written so brilliantly so far he got stuck with Baba Sehgal and Shobha De (the latter only a few English speaking people know anyway) and missed the pulse of Bombay.
Both Bihar and Pakistan were equally depressing (not because of Mr Dalrymple), though insightful at the same time.
This is a great read, cover to cover but appears more of a collection of essays written at different times rather than a fluent continuous travelogue. Imran Khan's story could have been cut short by several pages and the author's journey into Reunion Island, though fascinating in its own right, seems like a chapter from another book.
There are flashes of brilliance in a wonderfully written piece but also dots of passable text.
Overall a brilliantly written book about an extremely complex people and difficult times with the elegance of a master story teller and pathos of a native.