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The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters Paperback – April 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Series: Travel Literature
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet; US Ed edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1864501723
  • ISBN-13: 978-1864501728
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,563,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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,

From Library Journal

Lately, books on India by British writers have proliferated, but the accounts by Darymple (From the Holy Mountain; City of Dijnns) are incontestably some of the best. In Indian mythology, the Age of Kali is characterized as one of darkness. The 19 essays in the Age o f Kali, which have never been available in the United States, portray the Indian subcontinent (including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean) in the 1990s. The essays offer a wide range of interesting portraits, from a chief minister who is not upper caste, a village social worker who triumphs over reactionary forces, and a Hindi rap megastar. Dalrymple's account is most readable when he shows without simplification in the disparate elements and challenges faced on many fronts, and it is essential reading for anyone interested in the Indian subcontinent. With the publication of The Age of Kali, Lonely Planet is reissuing In Xanadu (originally published in a 1989 Vintage edition), which won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award. In this travelog, Dalrymple retraced Marco Polo's route from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to Kubla Khan's summer capital in Xanadu, entering China without a permit. His purpose was to describe the places and people he encountered on the road and interweave them with historical flashbacks to Polo's time. In Xanadu is recommended for public libraries, while The Age of Kali is suitable for both public and academic.
-Ravi Shenoy, North Central Coll. Lib., Naperville, IL.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Dalrymple has written an incisive book on contemporary India.
Alok Chakrabarti
In this book he shows a side of India that perhaps many would like to avoid discussing.
I advise anyone travelling to India to read this book first - they won't regret it !

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Kali on May 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
William Dalrymple is one of the best travel writers about. His book "THE AGE OF KALI" is a collection of essays written during his many travels over the years through India. Don't be deceived by the title, although Dalrymple talks about the ancient Goddess Kali, this book is not about her; it is in fact about the transition that India is going through, "the age of Kali" a time when change takes place, often not for the best. In this book he shows a side of India that perhaps many would like to avoid discussing. He talks about India's dark side, the violence, religious intolerance, the abject poverty of many people, a stronger than ever caste system along with the pain of a country struggling to find its feet in the 20th century. This is not a depressing book, far from it, Dalrymple shows the reader, that despite all the problems India has to contend with, she is a country of great beauty, great compassion and many wonders, admid all the tragedy, corruption, and heartbreak. This is not a book for the squeamish and if you want a read that romanticizes India, then this isn't for you. However, if you are looking for a book that you won't be able to put down, then this is certainly something you will want to read again and again.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Shashank Tripathi on April 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is amusing that some of the most interesting and veridical commentantary on the cultural and political anarchy that is India should come from a non-Indian raconteur. Beautifully illustrated by Olivia Fraser, The Age of Kali offers a compassionate view of a nation struggling against forces both modern and ancient. William Dalrymple has written a book that is required reading for anyone interested in India's emerging role in world affairs.
Hindu cosmology divides time into four great epochs, or yugs, which represent the movement from perfection toward moral and social disintegration. Many Indians today believe that they live in the Kali Yug, or Age of Kali, a period of rapidly advancing darkness marked by chaos, corruption, and decay. Not until the world is cleansed by fire will the cycle repeat itself, restoring balance. "In the Age of Kali," writes Dalrymple, "the great gods Vishnu and Shiva are asleep and do not hear the prayers of their devotees. In such an age, normal conventions fall apart: anything is possible." Despite being at the vanguard of the computer software industry and having recently joined the ranks of world superpowers with the successful test of an atomic bomb--an ominous development when one considers the state of relations with neighboring Pakistan--India remains a country firmly entrenched in the past. In much the same way that the Luddites rebelled against the first wave of industrialization, so too have many Indians, especially the more conservative followers of the Hindu religion, resorted to violence to express their dissatisfaction with encroaching Western influence. Xenophobia and intense nationalism maintain in defiance of the fast food restaurants, beauty pageants, and satellite TV stations that threaten traditional Indian values.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By David P on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dalrymple's work is a real surprise. To be honest, I hadn't even heard of the author until I read (on this site) a rather poisonous reader's review of Jason Elliot's excellent book about Afghanistan (An Unexpected Light) that included a statement like, "He's no Dalrymple..."
Dalrymple's travels in India are masterfully recorded. He manages to meet and talk with major figures in India's fast-changing society, including a variety of notorious and violent characters. Dalrymple investigates the slow erosion of the caste system, the increased awareness of women's rights (and the fissure that the issue has opened between urban and rural populations), the corruption and the squalor, and India's newly emerged wealth and power in a way that is both direct and sympathetic.
In the earlier sections of the book (which is really a loose collection of long journalistic essays) Dalrymple investigates the subcontinent's increasingly corrupt political system and the resulting rise of the ultra-nationalist BJP, whose members often use language eerily similar to that of the Nazis in the 1930s, inciting violence and murder while attacking the Muslim minority. Given that India now has a domestic nuclear weapons program the emergence of the BJP is downright scary, and important to understand in terms of its origins.
India has an increasingly powerful role to play in world affairs, and a growing middle class of technology-literate citizens. But if Dalrymple is right, it seems also to be collapsing under the weight of its own history. This book provides important insight into a culture that is otherwise too easy to ignore.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on February 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Dalrymple covers a lot ground including Bahir, Rajasthan, Bombay, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Goa, Sri Lanka, Reunion Island, & even Pakistan: Islamabad, Peshawar. Everywhere he goes Dalrymple(with the assistance of expertly chosen guides) gives you a sense of the historical scope of each city or region from its moment of grandeur to its moment of decline, with an equal amount of scrutiny being given to recent happenings and current political trends. In India facts must be dug for amid the many fictions in circulation and Dalrymple never one to take anyones word for anything does some admirable journalistic investigation of a murder at an elite boarding school, gathers together all the conflicting eyewitness accounts a modern day sati, and he even spends some time getting cozy with the notorious Tamil Tigers whom he finds to be amazingly young(their female contingent or 'Freedom Birds' remind him of Bond girls). And he interviews a lot of memorable figures including the militant Hindu revivalist Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia and Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto(both scathing portraits) as well as many who recollect and recreate for him in conversations and tours of dusty palaces tales of unimaginable opulence and decadence of India's not too distant past. The old cities are vanishing or have vanished, existing as heaps of stone tucked between modern office buildings. The cities are modernised, there is even an Indian equivalent to silicon valley but the rural areas remain in what seems another century.
Much of India is being turned upside down as the lower castes have tired of the ill treatment afforded them by the upper castes. The wealthy upper castes are not quick to let go of their privileges though and much of the countryside in areas like Bihar has become a battle zone for caste wars.
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