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Capital: The Eruption of Delhi Hardcover – May 15, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Salman Rushdie:
"Rana Dasgupta's Capital is a terrific portrait of Delhi right now and hits a lot of nails on the head."

The New Yorker:
“[An] unsparing portrait of moneyed Delhi, no telling detail seems to escape Dasgupta’s notice. His novelistic talents are matched by his skill at eliciting astonishing candor from his subjects. The best passages are incisive summaries of the human and environmental costs of the elite’s wealth and privilege and his persuasive predictions of crises yet to come. Dasgupta constantly seeks to upend conventional wisdom about Delhi, the murky circulation of its money, and the roots of its periodic outbursts of violence, making this one of the most worthwhile in a strong field of recent books about India’s free-market revolution and its unintended consequences.”

Ramachandra Guha, The New Republic:
“Dasgupta [uses] his profiles to reflect more broadly on the beauty and savagery of capitalism, its zest and drive, its haste and amorality…Capital is principally a book about the wealthy and the well-connected of Delhi. Yet there are some telling pages on the Anglophone middle class, and on the generational changes within it… The excerpts from interviews with businessmen and fixers…[are] revealing as well as chilling…[Dasgupta’s] analysis is often original and the writing always outstanding.”

Library Journal (starred): 
“A grim picture of a city run by oligarchs and the ‘new black-money elite,’ where success depends on ‘influence, assets, and connections.’ This book is highly recommended for anyone looking for background information on Delhi…The author’s account of the downside of the post-1991 free market economy and the pursuit of self-interest above all serves as a cautionary tale, doing for Delhi what Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City accomplished for Mumbai.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“A sincere, troubling look at India’s wrenching social and cultural changes.”

The Guardian (UK):
“A vivid and haunting account…Dasgupta’s combination of reportage, political critique and oral history is mordant rather than dyspeptic, sorrowful rather than castigatory. But what makes it more than a local study, what makes it so haunting, is that its textured, tart accounts of the privatisation of public space, of the incestuous relationship between the political and business classes, of the precarity that renders daily life so fraught all apply as much to Britain and the west as they do to the Indian capital.” 

The Times (UK):
“In his portrait of this hubris and its aftermath, Rana Dasgupta peels back the layers of denial with insight, humanity and, at times, exquisitely beautiful writing. He exposes some festering wounds but succeeds in fascinating rather than repelling… [Dasgupta] brings insights that flow from compassion and understanding along with access to the clique nexus of politics and money.”

The Observer (UK):
“Intense, lyrical, erudite, and powerful.”

Financial Times:
“[Dasgupta] mostly lets his subjects speak for themselves…The interviews at the core of the book are a cleverly tangential way to investigate a city that is among the world’s largest—about 22m people live in and around Delhi—and has been made a microcosm of India by the hundreds of thousands who arrive each year as migrants. As we read of Delhi’s frantic modernisation—from, among others, an outsourcing entrepreneur, a gay fashion designer, a property speculator, assorted tycoons and the victims of medical scams that extract cash from the relatives of the dying—we trace Dasgupta’s personal journey from excited arrival in 2000 to disillusionment.”

The Independent (UK):
Capital sets a scholarly and sympathetic tone…[Dasgupta’s] subjects are as varied as the city’s upper and lower classes, men and women, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; property magnates, money launderers, technology entrepreneurs and activists working to uplift Delhi’s slum areas…A remarkable and exhaustive account of a primordial free-zone whose assets are being stripped by the wealthy.”

The Telegraph (UK):
“Compelling, often terrifying…[Dasgupta’s] lyrical encounters with a wide range of modern Delhiites reveal a novelist’s ear and are beautifully sketched.”

The International New York Times:
“Lyrical and haunting.”

The Spectator:
Capital is constructed around a series of mesmerising interviews . . . Among many lively episodes in Dasgupta’s appropriately large, sprawling and populous book is one describing the experience of driving in Delhi.”

South China Morning Post (Hong Kong):
“[Dasgupta] shows observational acuity worthy of Don DeLillo… [An] edgy, visionary masterpiece.”

William Dalrymple, author of City of Djinns:
Capital is a beautifully written study of a corrupt, violent and traumatized city growing so fast it is almost unrecognizable to its own inhabitants.  An astonishing tour de force by a major writer at the peak of his powers, it will do for Delhi what Suketu Mehta so memorably did for Bombay with Maximum City.”

Praise for Rana Dasgupta's Solo:

Salman Rushdie:

“Rana Dasgupta [is] the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation”

James Wood, The New Yorker:
“[Dasgupta is] graced with an ironic eye and a gift for sentences of lancing power and beauty.”

About the Author

Rana Dasgupta won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book for his debut novel Solo. He is also the author of a collection of urban folktales, Tokyo Cancelled, which was shortlisted for the 2005 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Capital is his first work of non-fiction. Born in Canterbury in 1971, he now lives in Delhi.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (May 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594204470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594204470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SN2013 on September 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an incredible book that provides a multi-dimensional view of a multi-dimensional city. Delhi, like other post-colonial cities that are grappling with modernization and globalization, is layered and textured beyond what meets the eye. It is enchanting and inviting, but brutal and unforgiving at the same time. Behind the fog that often engulfs the capital and adds a sense of serenity to the landscape of the city, there is also a seedy underbelly in which all the stakeholders get frequently entangled. The author is not concerned with offering solutions to Delhi's problems, but instead (and thankfully) is more interested in offering a nuanced view of the city and its residents and how their lifestyles are both dictated by and create the social and cultural norms of the city. Delhi is different from Bombay in the sense that Delhi has more of an affinity for tradition and history and is thus more resistant to change. The result of that is a frequent clash between old and new in every strata of society.

Here is a quick pro and con list:

Pros:

- The writing is absolutely incredible. The author's usage of language is extremely impressive.

- Having said that, the book is also very readable with no awkward sentences containing incomprehensible words.

- The book covers all different kinds of industries (politics, business, fashion, film, IT etc...), and the author profiles people from all walks of life.

- The narrative is inter-woven very well and the author manages to offer insightful social commentary while also giving a substantial voice to his subjects.

- Having lived in Delhi, and similar cities, such as Lahore, the author's observations are rather accurate.

Cons:

- The book could have a bit shorter, but that is only a minor gripe because the content is very interesting and engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nanckauf on July 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once into this book, I decided to keep it looking as new as possible because it will make a wonderful gift for my Delhi friends. Appreciation of this superbly written book will not, however, be confined to Indians, to Delhiites, or even to those Westerners who visit Delhi. Ultimately, it's a sobering account of what can happen to a city torn loose from its history.

Dasgupta gives the reader an intimate glimpse into the lives of a wide range of Delhi residents. He's been compared to V.S.Naipaul, which I think is fair in that, like Naipaul, he uses his own personal interactions with the people he interviews (although it's easy to forget that something like an interview is going on) over a period of several months.

Walking around Gurgaon, one can wonder what's behind the wealth that's sprung up here so quickly--the cement is barely dry. Dasgupta gets us into spots we'd never otherwise see, those "farm houses" tucked away behind secured wooded areas. But "Capital" is far more than an explanation for business and financial expansion. The reader gets to see what is happening to peoples' lives as a result of catapulting into a brand new suburb like Gurgaon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Hollo on July 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A remarkable look into the capitalist frenzy that has gripped one of the world's most historically dynamic cities. Incorporating voices from all walks of Delhi life, Dasgupta illuminates the historical, economic, and ethical complications of modern India. Capital is a must read for anyone interested in India, and is a good follow-up to Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers."
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Dasgupta sets out a detailed portrait of a city and its inhabitants as both reflect aspects of a particular cultural setting and a long and eventful history. His insights are provocative and insightful, especially in his concluding chapter wherein he enlarges his perspective to suggest that Delhi may well represent, not a unique urbanity, but perhaps what the future might hold for other cities around the globe. I learned a lot from his reportage, especially in those sections in which he meets with representative individuals whose personal narratives balance nicely with his more generalized, more-or-less chronological, overview. I came away from the book feeling I understood more about how and why contemporary Delhi "works" the way it does, as a consequence of both cultural and historical influences, while at the same time reflecting something of what the future might well hold for cities everywhere.
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Format: Hardcover
I am on constant lookout for books which attempt to explain the Asian (subcontinent) psyche. Dasgupta has knocked it out of the park. He is on his was to Rohinton Mistry-esque spot.
The book is spot on with the moral corruption, which unfortunately, is deeply ingrained in our fiber as well the paradox of 'simple' Indian, who tyrannized on his way up, inflicts the same, if not more, pain on the folks. now below him. I wish I was as eloquent as him to expose the rabid dog-eat-dog culture in these tense, seething populations. This book is not an incrimination of the Asian (Indian) culture, it is a celebration of the chaos of choice and freedom, mixed with religion and a new found identity.
Some other fantastic books like Dasgupta: Maximum city, A fine Balance, Getting filthy rich in Asia.
Just an amazing piece of work.
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