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India: A Wounded Civilization Paperback – April 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030757
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030750
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Extraordinarily forceful. . . . Naipaul is an elegantly precise and exacting writer.” –Newsweek

“A deep pleasure to read. . . . Adventurous, inquiring, observant, penetrating, intelligent.” –The Washington Post Book World

“Typical Naipaul–brilliantly lucid, terse, with something hardbitten yet resigned in the emotional background.” –The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

In 1975, at the height of Indira Gandhi?s ?Emergency,? V. S. Naipaul returned to India, the country his ancestors had left one hundred years earlier. Out of that journey he produced this concise masterpiece: a vibrant, defiantly unsentimental portrait of a society traumatized by centuries of foreign conquest and immured in a mythic vision of its past.

Drawing on novels, news reports, political memoirs, and his own encounters with ordinary Indians?from a supercilious prince to an engineer constructing housing for Bombay?s homeless?Naipaul captures a vast, mysterious, and agonized continent inaccessible to foreigners and barely visible to its own people. He sees both the burgeoning space program and the 5,000 volunteers chanting mantras to purify a defiled temple; the feudal village autocrat and the Naxalite revolutionaries who combined Maoist rhetoric with ritual murder. Relentless in its vision, thrilling in the keenness of its prose, India: A Wounded Civilization is a work of astonishing insight and candor.

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Customer Reviews

Maybe I just don't get Naipul - I read half of his "House for Mr. Biswas" and bailed on that too!
Gaucho36
By Naipaul's logic, Muslims - who constitute fourteen percent of India's population and do not suffer from the afflictions of Hinduism - should be much better off.
Bodhidharma
Well, there's enough of the latter in this book, but wheres the original mind, the brilliant(never mind if it's unflattering) insight into the 'Indian' psyche?
Gita Jaisinghani

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By dogny on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Nobody writes like V.S. Naipaul. Nobody. His visual descriptions of ordinary people always hit the nail on the head. His central theme is the vibrant, pulsating, intellectual Hindu civilization has been dominated for too long--first, and longest, by the Muslim invaders and second, most recently, by the English. After the initial burst of optimism following independance, India has faced one obstacle after another, turning inward, revealing a 'wounded civilization,' a stilted culture who doesn't know herself anymore or what made her great. I'm not sure if I'm smart enough to comment on this theme . . . it is sort of an impressionistic history that cannot be divined by ordinary historical models. Using his own methods of analysis, V.S. Naipaul may not be an ideal person to do this analysis because like Ghandi and Nehru he studied(and, in his case, was born)outside India. This theme of exile and what is learned is brought back again and again. Naipaul writes with vigor. His words are a joy to read and ponder over. In some ways this is his most personal book.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on July 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is not academic work that tries to cover an issue from some kind of systematic methodology that is currently in fashion. Instead, it is an extremely dense essay by an original novelist on what makes India what it is: chaotic, without a sense of historical continuity - his contrast with the European narrative that moves from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance/Reformation and Enlightenment to the industrial democracies is absolutely fascinating and yet deliciously succinct - and struggling to forge a modern identity in the post-colonial independence. What the reader gets is an interpretation, the details of which (s)he must fill in or debate oneself. Naipaul even does brilliant literary criticism of contemporary Indian novels in this book to shed light on his ideas, which as anecdotal and quirky as they are are always interesting. Disagree we might, but he stimulates even in error. Even after almost 30 years from its original publication, this essay is worth the read, if only to explore the reasoning behind rejecting it (I couldn't totally).
Warmly recommended.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Most Indians don't seem to like Mr.Naipaul from what I hear about his very acrimonious literary workshops and press conferences in India. He has a reputation preceding him as 'not a very nice man' but a great writer. I had all this in mind when I opened to read this book(such a sharp title).
The book is written by some one who is intellectually a westerner(written from an unabashedly western stand point),and wants to understand and digest the Indian social & cultural scene to satisfy his probing mind. Naipaul does not accept convenient lies and soft answers in this quest.
The result is a remarkable book about India and about the attitudes and expectations of average Indians(one generation away from the closed social life of an extended family, caste, religion, region).Naipaul dissects the Indian psyche and pinpoints the muddy thinking and mythologising that is widely prevalent in the intellectual life of India. This book could be seen as a critique of the blindness of Indians to the 'real' world, who prefer to live and judge themselves and others through the myopic glass of perceived high culture of 'centuries of rich civilization'. Unlike any previous rendition of India, Naipaul has a familiar access to people and places and the perspective of an outside observer that is closed to Indians. He straddles this unique viewpoint successfully, making this a very revealing book on India. This book is never dry or trite but has a rich humanity to it, a cast of real people seen through the curious and sympathetic eye of Naipaul.
The book, to an Indian expat like me, was riveting.This book would have been an uncomfortable read for me in India.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Aniruddha G. Kulkarni on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book remains probably the best external perspective on India.

India is in constant trauma-of one kind or the other. This trauma does not give Indians any time to pause and look at themselves objectively. Therefore, the task falls on some one like Naipaul.

Naipaul claims he does not belong to Indis but his ancestors do. However, he becomes insider- journeying through India. The sensitivity he shows, praise he showers on what he believes is good (for example Kannada book "Samskara") and then stinging criticism...no one is spared.... Mahatma Gandhi, R K Narayan, Vinoba Bhave,Shiv Sena. In the end he 'belongs', he is never a Sahib,never condescending.

Wonderful and humbling experience.......
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
its sheer cause it cuts, but what this guy has said is
true.
Dont buy this book if you are looking a fluffy travelouge
Naipaul's best gift is presenting complex human emotions
in a simple fashion. I like his non fiction better, but
thats because the matter he covers in his interviews.
Check out his 2 books on traveling through islamic countries also. They dont pertain to india but the psyche of a lot of characters is the same.
A lot of his writing has to do with his age. He is 70+ and
non-white. His generation had high hopes for the 'civilizations'
recovering from colonial-imperial-racial oppressions and joining
to create a global civilization. But the road has not been easy.
"Are the former colonies better off now ?" This is the question
that he is allways asking. I am in my 20's and naipauls literature helped me see the world in an honest non-delusional way. I recommend this to younger readers because when people
his generations are gone and the cultures will eventualy change,his work will serve as an educational link to learn the emotions at work in day to day working of those individuals.
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