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Calcutta: Two Years in the Cityby Amit Chaudhuri
Synopses & Reviews
The award-winning author Amit Chaudhuri has been widely praised for the beauty and subtle power of his writing and for the ways in which he makes “place” as complex a character as his men and women. Now he brings these gifts to a spellbinding amalgam of memoir, reportage, and history in this intimate, luminous portrait of Calcutta.
Chaudhuri guides us through the city where he was born, the home he loved as a child, the setting of his acclaimed novels—a place he now finds captivating for all the ways it has, and, perhaps more powerfully, has not, changed. He shows us a city relatively untouched by the currents of globalization but possessed of a “self-renewing way of seeing, of inhabiting space, of apprehending life.” He takes us along vibrant avenues and derelict alleyways; introduces us to intellectuals, Marxists, members of the declining haute bourgeoisie, street vendors, domestic workers; brings to life the city’s sounds and smells, its architecture, its traditional shops and restaurants, new malls and hotels. And, using the historic elections of 2011 as a fulcrum, Chaudhuri looks back to the nineteenth century, when the city burst with a new vitality, and toward the politics of the present, finding a city “still not recovered from history” yet possessed of a singular modernity.
Chaudhuri observes and writes about Calcutta with rare candor and clarity, making graspable the complex, ultimately ineluctable reasons for his passionate attachment to the place and its people.
"The 'two years' in the title of this eloquent work of noblesse oblige is misleading, since the Indian-English author, musician, and professor of literature (The Immortals) was born in Calcutta in the early 1960s and spent much time there in the decades since. Chaudhuri draws on mostly tender, impressionistic memories of his hometown — descriptions familiar to readers of his fiction trilogy Freedom Song (collected in one volume). He felt compelled to write about Calcutta because of the city's down-on-its-heels modernity, edgy diversity, and Marxist politics; he was taken by Calcutta's crumbling colonial glory and architecture, its Bengali bourgeois class that aped the English ways, its literary and artistic inheritance (Tagore, Shankar), and its enormous number of destitute immigrant workers. The twice-partitioned Bengali capital became a kind of exotic mistress that the author, educated at Oxford and Cambridge, could not quit, and while his impressions are astute, his considerations of the lower classes, including the servants in his house, can seem patronizing. Agent: Peter Straus, RCW Literary." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the acclaimed author of the novels The Immortals and Freedom Song: a spellbinding book that combines memoir, reportage, and history in an intimate, richly sensual portrait of the city of Calcutta.
Amit Chaudhuri has been consistently praised for the beauty and subtle power of his writing and for the ways in which he makes "place" as complex a character as his men and women. Now, he brings these gifts to a chronicle of two years in which he made Calcutta his home. In a mesmerizing narrative he takes us into the heart of a metropolis relatively untouched by the currents of globalization but possessed of a "self renewing way...of apprehending life." The narrative moves through the city's vibrant avenues and its derelict alleyways, introduces us to its homeless and its well-heeled, describes its architecture and food, its sounds and smells, its past and present politics, and makes abundantly clear the complex reasons for the author's passionate attachment to the place and its people. It is an unusually beguiling, eye-opening journey that evokes all that is most particular and extraordinary about the city.
About the Author
AMIT CHAUDHURI is the author of several award-winning novels and an internationally acclaimed musician and essayist. He is a contributor to the London Review of Books, Granta, and The Times Literary Supplement. He is Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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