In Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India itself, William Dalrymple searches for evidence of Kali Yug, the Hindu 'age of darkness.' Venturing to places rarely visited by foreigners, he travels deep into guerilla territory with the Tamil Tigers, visits Benazir Bhutto and meets the drug lords of the North West Frontier. He unveils a regions where the strengths and problems of both modernity and tradition remain to be reconciled. The result is this engrossing, eagle-eyed and utterly enthralling collection.
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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.ukFrom the Publisher:
''Dalrymple remains without peer' - Sara Wheeler, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year
'William Dalrymple has superseded Mark Tully as the voice of India ... He may well be the greatest travel writer of his generation.' - Robert Twigger, Spectator
'Dalrymple is amazingly gifted ... Not content with analysis, he is mad enough to interview many of the armed and dangerous people who are hell bent on leading India into the Age of Kali, the era of destruction and darkness. The result is reportage of the highest order ... Brilliant and persuasively frightening.' - Harry Ritchie, Mail on Sunday
'The most admired young travel writer in Britain today is the industrious and preternaturally talented William Dalrymple, without whose presence all prize-lists seem grotesquely naked. With The Age of Kali he has pulled it off again ... Witty and eagle-eyed, Dalrymple is, above everything, a fine observer and reporter.' - Michael Thompson-Noel, Financial Times, Books of the Year
'Fascinating ... Dalrymple hasn't just swarmed around South Asia visiting architectural ruins and interviewing relics of the Raj. He has also gone to places that few, if any, tourists will ever see, sometimes at considerable personal risk. Here he reprises some brilliant reportage from these unorthodox journeys and includes a series of penetrating profiles .. The Age of Kali is far from uncritical, but as Dalrymple says, "it is a work of love". Again and again he summons perfectly modulated prose - comic, tragic, ironic by turns - to evoke his passion.' - Katherine Frank, Literary Review
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