Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History (Cities of the Imagination)

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9781566564885: Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History (Cities of the Imagination)

In the popular imagination, Calcutta is a packed and pestilential sprawl, made notorious by the Black Hole and the works of Mother Teresa, Kipling called it a City of Dreadful Night, and a century later V.S. Naipaul, Gunter Grass, and Louis Malle revived its hellish image. This is the place where the West first truly encountered the East. Founded in the 1690s by East India Company merchants beside the Hugli River, Calcutta grew into India's capital and the second city of the British Empire during the Raj. Named the City of Palaces for its neoclassical mansions, Calcutta was also home to extraordinary Bengalis such as Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel laureate, and Satyajit Ray, among the geniuses of world cinema. Above all, Calcutta (renamed Kolkata in 2001) is a city of extremes, where refinement rubs shoulders with commercialism and political violence. Krishna Dutta explores these multiple paradoxes, giving personal insight into Calcutta's unique history and modern identity as reflected in its architecture, literature, cinema, and music.

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About the Author:

KRISHNA DUTTA was born and brought up in Calcutta. She has translated Bengali literature and written several books on Rabindranath Tagore.

From Publishers Weekly:

Dutta depicts Calcutta's many faces in this erudite guide to the city, which is part of the Cities of the Imagination Series. The author, who was born and raised in Calcutta and who has translated Bengali literature, divides her book into nine chapters, each one examining a different facet of the varied Indian metropolis. Her section on "Company Calcutta" identifies Calcutta's founder, Job Charnock, and pinpoints August 24, 1690 as the "beginning of Calcutta." She goes on, in that chapter, to discuss cultural mixing (between the colonizers and the colonized) in the 1700s. Another chapter, entitled "City of Strife," addresses Calcutta's longstanding image of poverty and portrays Mother Teresa as having "an uncanny understanding of the psychology of charity." Wide-ranging if dense, Dutta's work presents an in-depth portrait of one of India's most intriguing cities. A list of suggested reading, which ranges from V. S. Naipaul to Jhumpa Lahiri, along with indexes of important Calcutta people and places add to the book's value. B&w illus., maps.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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