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Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journal (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – January 31, 2000

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (January 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322257
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #533,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Hindoo Holiday sweeps the reader into a Firbankian world of total absurdity, in which the wildest fantasies of superstition and of sexual variety and experiment are the daily routines of the palace." -- Stuart Hampshire

"His humour is the humour of pity and love. He is an artist of the understanding." -- V.S. Pritchett

"One of those books of rare occurrence which stands upon a superior and totally distinct plane of artistic achievement...It is a work of high literary skill and very delicate aesthetic perception and it deals with characters and a milieu which are novel and radiantly delightful. What more, in an imperfect world, has one the right to expect?" -- Evelyn Waugh

About the Author

J.R Ackerley (1896-1967) was for many years the literary editor of the BBC magazine The Listener. A respected mentor to such younger writers as Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden, he was also a longtime friend and literary associate of E.M. Forster. His works include three memoirs, Hindoo Holiday, My Dog Tulip, and My Father and Myself, and a novel, We Think the World of You.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on March 14, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A journal of Ackerley's stay in the Indian province of Chhatarpur during the 1920s, "Hindoo Holiday" records and mocks the muddled morality and intellectual immaturity of both slothful Indian rulers and equally pampered British colonialists. After Ackerley returned from India, he spent several years touching up his diary for publication; he changed the names, toned down the sexual content, and removed passages that might be considered libelous. This recently published version is the first unexpurgated American edition, with all the cuts restored.

Ackerley's intent was to be mischievous and outrageous and comic; and his book became both a critical hit and, to everyone's surprise, his most commercially successful work. The book is at its best in its humorous depictions of the Maharajah, his private secretary Babaji Rao, and the contingent of valets, including the endearingly sweet Sharma and Narayan. For the most part, Ackerley's portraits are nonjudgmental and fond; he reserves his venom for the British guests and, to a lesser extent, for his sycophantic tutor, Abdul, and clumsy servant-child, Habib.

Throughout "Hindoo Holiday" there is a disconcerting, even creepy, undercurrent that revolves around the sexual despotism of the Maharajah, whose predatory advances are directed towards the "Gods"--his name for the boys in his employ. "Boys" is Ackerley's term; at least one is identified as being twenty and several are married, so it's possibly more accurate to call most of them young men. But, whatever their age, these youngsters are compelled to have sexual relations with the Maharajah--and with his wife while he's watching. Complicating this issue is the subtly hinted possibility that the ruler is suffering from the advanced stages of syphilis.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
The cliche "He leads a charmed existence" ran constantly through my mind when I first read *Hindoo Holiday*. How else would a talented but eccentric young Englishman more or less tumble into a privileged position as secretary to an Indian maharajah and have the most glorious and exciting things happen to him?
But it's real--*Hindoo Holiday* may sound like the title of a Hollywood musical but the writer is J.R. Ackerley and the telling is his own. His scenic prose style is better than any Technicolor in sharing his joy at his newfound environment. This book deserves a treasured spot in any armchair traveler's bookshelf.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hemant Sareen on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
The first thing I should carp about (and that will be the last time I do about this book)is that it has never been recommended to me by friends or at the university by my teachers. The reason could be the the rather candid and matter-of-fact approach of Ackerly to homosexuality (belonged to the circle of friends including Forster and Auden):I should have guessed immediately because the locale is 'Chokrapur' whose American counterpart would be 'Ladsville'! One is left wondering if there was no persecution of people with different sexual orientation, after all, as its widely believed and is true, the British Victorian attitude were responsible(the British enforced out-lawing of homosexuality still persists in the Indian penal code) for casting a pall of repression over an otherwise liberated and taboo-proof(especially in matters relating to sex)Indian social order? Apparently not, for Ackerly carries on and there is nothing furtive about the advances:its all grown up and consent based.
The other point that should be brought up and very few readings have thrown up, is that India's cliched image about being a land of diversity(thats true here, for the Indians Ackerly comes across are of all types), colour, and paegent is totally ignored.No monuments are praised here, nor is the culture sung about:For a change here is a book about the Indian people and the Indian attitudes and psyche. Ackerly seems totally unaware of the cultural difference.He just faithfully logs the absurdities of a group of people without any prejudice and judgement.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Both of Amazon's reviewers to date seem to have missed the point of Ackerley's Hindoo Holiday. Anyone coming to this book for a historic, sensitive portrait of life in India under the Raj is in for a profound disappointment. Ackerley's stay in the state he called "Chhokrapur" was short--only five months--and although he was interested in the cultural differences he found between himself and his friends, this account (in diary form) doesn't probe deeply into the questions of religion, gender, sexuality, and cross-cultural discourse that Ackerley inevitably encounters.
Instead, the diary is meant to do one thing--make the reader laugh. Ackerley's sketches (literal and figurative--this edition comes with some pleasant pen-and-ink line drawings) of his Indian friends are memorable indeed: the shy Sharma, the affectionate Narayan, the wise Babaji Rao, the pompous but friendly Prime Minister, the irritating English Tutor Abdul, and most of all, the silly, simpering, loveable, intelligent, complicated, contradictory Maharajah himself. Ackerley is a brilliant writer whose eye for personal detail is unfailing; he's also a frequent misanthropist. The brilliance of Ackerley's writing, here and elsewhere, is that he doesn't ask you to like him, but leaves you unable to dislike the people (and canines--his My Dog Tulip is a must-read for any dog-lover) he encounters. Funny, entertaining and ultimately moving.
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