Synopses & Reviews
A monumental biography of the subcontinent from the award-winning author of The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
Second only to China in the magnitude of its economic miracle and second to none in its potential to shape the new century, India is fast undergoing one of the most momentous transformations the world has ever seen. In this dazzlingly panoramic book, Patrick French chronicles that epic change, telling human stories to explain a larger national narrative.
Melding on-the-ground reports with a deep knowledge of history, French exposes the cultural foundations of Indias political, economic and social complexities. He reveals how a nation identified with some of the most wretched poverty on earth has simultaneously developed an envied culture of entrepreneurship (here are stories like that of C. K. Ranganathan, who trudged the streets of Cuddalore in the 1980s selling sample packets of shampoo and now employs more than one thousand people). And even more remarkably, French shows how, despite the ancient and persistent traditions of caste, as well as a mind-boggling number of ethnicities and languages, India has nevertheless managed to cohere, evolving into the worlds largest democracy, largely fulfilling Jawaharlal Nehrus dream of a secular liberal order.
Frenchs inquiry goes to the heart of all the puzzlements that modern India presents: Is this country actually rich or poor? Why has its Muslim population, the second largest on earth, resisted radicalization to such a considerable extent? Why do so many children of Indians who have succeeded in the West want to return “home,” despite never having lived in India? Will India become a natural ally of the West, a geostrategic counterweight to the illiberal rising powers China and Russia? To find the answers, French seeks out an astonishing range of characters: from Maoist revolutionaries to Mafia dons, from chained quarry laborers to self-made billionaires. And he delves into the personal lives of the political elite, including the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, one of the most powerful women in the world.
With a familiarity and insight few Westerners could approach, Patrick French provides a vital corrective to the many outdated notions about a uniquely dynamic and consequential nation. His India is a thrilling revelation.
"Visiting New Delhi and Calcutta not long after the smashing international success of Slumdog Millionaire I was surprised by the number of Indians who wanted to hear my opinion of Danny Boyle's film. This was a nice inversion of the clichéd traveler's narrative, wherein the visitor solemnly asks the locals about the most recent artistic depiction of their homeland. ('American tourists,' a British friend recently informed me, 'inquire about The King's Speech and nothing else.') But when I turned the question back on my interlocutors, I was surprised less by the vehemence of the criticisms than by the opposing viewpoints on offer. For every person who described the movie as only the latest Western attempt to sugarcoat the realities of Indian life, there was someone else who admitted to feeling shame that the world had embraced a movie which presented the country as nothing more than a poverty-stricken wasteland. While these two points of view might have contradicted one another, each stemmed from the understanding that India was being intensely examined on the world's stage." Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic (Read the entire New Republic review)
A monumental biography of the subcontinent from the award-winning author of The World Is What It Is.
In only six decades since independence, India has gone from a place associated with some of the most wretched poverty on earth to one that, economically, could come to dominate the twenty-first century. In this penetrating study, Patrick French examines the cultural foundations that have made possible a stunningly accelerated transformation from listless planned economy to capitalist and entrepreneurial powerhouse. French paints a vivid, surprising picture of life where violence, corruption, and caste prejudice continually find new outlets even as millions have escaped poverty. He gives voice to an astonishing cast of characters: from Maoist revolutionaries to Mafia dons, from chained quarry laborers to self-made billionaires. He delves into the personal lives of the political elite, including the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, one of the most powerful women in the world. And he travels the vast terrain to discover how Nehru's vision of a democratic, secular India has managed, despite confl ict and setback, to hold this vast, implacably diverse nation together.
Patrick French's India is a thrilling revelation.
About the Author
Patrick French was born in England in 1966 and studied literature at Edinburgh University. He is the author of Younghusband; Liberty or Death; Tibet, Tibet; and The World Is What It Is, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hawthornden Prize. French is the winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award. He lives in London.