CITY OF DJINNS by William Dalrymple

CITY OF DJINNS

A Year in Delhi
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A charming portrait of the ancient Indian capital of Delhi by a talented young British travel writer. Dalrymple, whose debut book of travel writing, In Xanadu (not reviewed), received much praise, spent a year wandering around the dilapidated city of Delhi uncovering the layers of history found in its architectural and human ruins. With his wife, Olivia Fraser (whose pen-and-ink illustrations help the book along), Dalrymple finds a Delhi that is still trying to overcome the traumas of British colonialism and the partition of 1947, in which most Muslims migrated from India to the newly created Pakistan and many Hindus, expelled from the Punjab, fled to Delhi, creating a new, less sophisticated class of resident. The title refers to the spirits that according to legend have, throughout the ages, watched over the inhabitants of Delhi. At first, Dalrymple finds that much of the old life, including the belief in djinns, seems to have faded; but after some digging, he learns that these old customs are simply hidden and very much alive. Judiciously parceling out strands of Indian history, Dalrymple shows that the unique Delhi ways have always been able to withstand the worst of wars and other calamities. He takes us, in an affable style, through the sprawling city and introduces us to the frugal Punjabi people who now make up the majority of the population, as well as to the remnants of the old colonialists, and then to the fascinating ways of people of the underbelly--the sad, regimented lives of contemporary eunuchs, the tenacity of the squatters, and the timeless world of the many religions that have quietly coexisted for centuries in the chaotic warrens of the indestructible city. Not a heavyweight experience, but this warm look at Delhi is a pleasant starting point for anyone interested in this mysterious city. (16 pages b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-215725-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994




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