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Bookless in Baghdad: Reflections on Writing and Writers Hardcover – July 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of short essays by the Anglo-Indian novelist and senior U.N. official would seem to hold out the promise of an ethnographic consideration of the life of letters. Alas, the title essay, about the "book souk" in besieged Baghdad, is something of a red herring. These essays, newspaper columns and speeches do not, by and large, try to assess the situation of literature in war-torn regions, or any other regions for that matter. In one piece, the author describes the experience of having his novel adapted to the big screen; another is an elegy for a defunct Anglo-Indian review; a third is an anecdote of traveling to Spain for a cup of coffee. These are all personal reflections—as when Tharoor devotes an entire column to answering the criticisms of an Indian journalist, deflecting critiques of his hairstyle and choice of clothing. Tharoor's novels, as he never tires of writing, have been lavishly praised all around the world. But this book's topics—as well as the author's liberal use of culture-specific shorthand—would seem to make it primarily of interest to the Anglophone Indian community. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Tharoor, multitalented and multifaceted, is an undersecretary at the UN, a journalist, a biographer of Nehru, a celebrated novelist with a bent for satire, and a polished and pointed essayist. He begins this far-ranging, piquant, and enlivening collection of essays about reading and writing with a charming piece about his boyhood addiction to books, primarily British in origin, a reminiscence that segues into the first of many illuminating cross-cultural inquiries into how the imagination trumps prejudice. Turning to the Indian tradition, he considers the power of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, and how it inspired him to write his controversial Great Indian Novel (1991). Tharoor then ruminates insightfully on the works of Pushkin, Neruda, Narayan, le Carre, and Rushdie; globalism and culture; and the state of literature (precarious) and illiteracy (rampant) in America. His diplomatic work meshes with his literary passion throughout, but it is especially tangible in his sensitive account of a visit to Baghdad's book row in 1998, where he witnesses the power of books under even the most trying circumstances. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; UNABRIDGED VERSION edition (July 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559707577
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559707572
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,691,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's hard to easily categorize Bookless In Baghdad: Reflections On Writing And Writers: it's not a literary expose, it's not entirely a memoir/autobiography, and it's not entirely a cultural reflection on Iraq and India - yet, it's got elements of all the above. You'll receive more of an appreciation for literacy and reading learning what Iraqis go through just to get a book, and how selling their own books can make the difference between dinner or hunger. Tharoor examines his own childhood with books in India - and he reflects on the literary figures which that country reveres. Forty essays provide a range of insights on the literary world outside the West - and they're fascinating revelations.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Marion on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a little like "Reading Lolita in Tehran" in that it offers a multitude of further reading ideas and insights into another culture, in this case mostly the culture of India, as influenced by its long history and British colonial period in particular. Numerous Indian writers are celebrated, especially Salman Rushdie, but so are the works of P. G. Wodehouse, Le Carre, Pushkin, Pablo Neruda, Hemingway, Orwell, and more. Don't miss the essays on illiteracy in America and the final essay celebrating the value of reading in a time of terrorism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Delma Luben on October 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A great look inside the lives of India's elite leaders, as well as the literary life there, plus reflections on writing and writers from other countries ...

Sashi Tharoor is an interesting eclectic writer, and world traveler, with a fascinating background. Born in London, educated in India and the U.S, and currently Under Secretary General,Communications and Public Information, at The United Nations ...

His insightful essays, covering everything from growing up in India, world affairs, war, history, religion, globalization, death and destruction, to Hollywood and Bollywood....make a remarkable book that will interest readers of all nations.-- and it's an easy read.

Highly recommended.
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