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Thursday, August 18, 2011

BOOKS ON INDIA, AN ANALYSIS: It needs more than love to write about India!


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IANS / ibnlive.in.com / Posted on Aug 18, 2011 at 03:28pm IST.

New Delhi: Stepping into the soul of India is not easy for a foreign writer; the journey needs more than mere love for the country. The process requires an identification with history, facts at fingertips and an uncanny nose for immediate socio-political contexts, show landmark books written over the years.

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"What is missing in French's book is evidence of a struggle to understand India and one's own place in it. French never gets much beyond the glib assertion in his preface that the new, cool India is the 'world's default setting for the future'," Adiga said.

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William Dalrymple, the author of bestsellers such as "City of Djinns" and "The Last Mughal", is an example of what a foreigner can bring on the table at a time when Indians are also writing non-fiction about their country, Mahajan said. "He has an unabashed eye for exotic details."

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For Geoff Dyer, the author of "Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi", the spiritual nirvana of Varanasi was the anchor of semi-autobiographical Jeff Atman (the protagonist of his book) who comes to the pilgrim town in quest for renunciation.

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US-based Wendy Doniger, the author of "The Hindus: An Alternative History", has been tapping into the wealth of Indian myths and dynamics of the Hindu faith for decades now to cater to a new segment of western and Indian audiences who are still curious about eastern mysticism in a spillover of the flower revolution of the 1960s-70s.

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"India has always been an object of fascination for foreign writers because of its exoticism. Even the earliest of travellers and chroniclers like Ibn Batuta wrote about India extensively but with the specific purpose of cultural understanding," Dipa Chaudhuri, chief editor of Om Books, told IANS.

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The British Raj has been a strategic inspiration for authors such as MM Kaye and EM Forster, whose sustained affairs with India resulted in an amazing collection of unparalleled Anglophone literature.

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