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Salman Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands is an important record of one writer’s intellectual and personal odyssey. The seventy essays collected here, written over the last ten years, cover an astonishing range of subjects –the literature of the received masters and of Rushdie’s contemporaries; the politics of colonialism and the ironies of culture; film, politicians, the Labour Party, religious fundamentalism in America, racial prejudice; and the preciousness of the imagination and of free expression. For this paperback edition, the author has written a new essay to mark the third anniversary of the fatwa.
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.
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