• ‘‘
    This is a remarkably absorbing account of an India in transition – full of challenges and contradictions, but also of expectations, hope, and ultimately optimism.”
    — Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate
  • ‘‘
    There are many virtues of Akash Kapur’s beautifully sketched portrait of modern India. The book reads like a novel. Kapur’s skill is to get people talking and to weave their stories into a necessarily messy debate about India’s future.”
    The Financial Times
  • ‘‘
    Impressively lucid and searching... In his clarity, sympathy and impeccably sculpted prose, Kapur often summons the spirit of V. S. Naipaul.”
    — Pico Iyer, Time magazine
  • ‘‘
    A wonderful writer: a courageously clear-eyed
    observer, an astute listener, a masterful portraitist, and a gripping storyteller.”
    — Philip Gourevitch,
         author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We
         Will Be Killed With Our Families
  • ‘‘
    [R]eadable, acutely observed, and crammed with well-drawn characters.... Mr. Kapur offers a corrective to a simplistic 'new, happy narrative' of a rising India. That is welcome and he does it well.”
    The Economist
  • ‘‘
    Marvelous... Sharp-eyed, insightful, skillfully-sketched and
    beautifully written, India Becoming is the
    remarkable debut of a distinctive new talent.”
    — William Dalrymple, author of Nine Lives
  • ‘‘
    Akash Kapur lives in and writes out of an India that few writers venture into. His writing has established him as one of the most reliable observers of the New India.”
    — Pankaj Mishra, author of Temptations of the West
  • ‘‘
    Lucid, balanced. Kapur is determinedly fair-minded, neither an apologist nor a scold, and he is a wonderfully empathetic listener.”
    The New York Times Book Review
  • ‘‘
    Through a series of deft character sketches, Akash Kapur captures the contradictions of life in modern India...His writing is fresh and vivid; his perspective, empathetic and appealingly non-judgemental.”
    — Ramachandra Guha,
         author of India after Gandhi
  • ‘‘
    A fascinating look at the transformation of India, with broader lessons on the upside and downside of progress.”
    Booklist (starred review)

Newsweek names India Becoming a “Must-Read” on modern India

Newsweek magazine recently named India Becoming one of its three “Must-Reads on Modern India.” The other two books it named are excellent, and I highly recommend them both: Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire, and Aman Sethi’s A Free Man.

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Declining optimism in India

This year’s Pew Global Attitudes survey reveals a striking decline in optimism among Indians. The most striking statistic: just 38% of Indians are satisfied with the country’s direction, down from 51% last year. The question this raises:  Are such numbers a depressing indication of bad times, or actually signs of a healthy new realism about the country? It’s been a rough year in India, for sure, but, as I suggest in India Becoming, the country has often over-estimated its situation–and often to its great detriment.

Another very striking finding in the survey: rich Indians are far more positive about the country’s prospects than poor and middle-income Indians. I think that’s a very telling finding.

 

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Salman Rushdie’s brilliant memoir

I’ve been waiting for Salman’s Rushdie’s memoir of his years in hiding, Joseph Anton, for some time now. This week The New Yorker published an excerpt–and now I know the wait was worth it. It’s a brilliant piece of writing–thoughtful, surprising, deeply moving. It’s essential reading for anyone who cares about freedom of expression, and about the toll political or religious fanaticism can take on individual liberties and human life.

I also came across this trailer for Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. It’s going to be a big year for anyone who cares about Rushdie’s work. So happy to see him in the news for all the right reasons–brilliant writing, a brilliant mind, rather than NY socialite gossip.

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Danish and Italian press on India Becoming

An international roundup: two recent articles in the European press on India Becoming. One from Brief, a Danish magazine, and the other from East, in Italy. (The Italian article is also available in an–imperfectly translated–English version).

Please also take a look at Carlo Pizzati’s very fine “Open Letter to India” in the article from East.

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Reuters Book Talk on India Becoming

An interview with Nick Zieminski of Reuters, in which I talk about my favorite India books (and wonder if I’m confused).

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NYT on India Becoming

The New York Times finally runs its review of India Becoming, and it’s a nice, positive thoughtful one. Geoffrey C. Ward says it’s a “lucid, balanced new book.” He says I’m sometimes “reiterative” (a nicer way of saying “repetitive,” I think: I love it when reviewers are generous with their choice of words), but continues: “Kapur is determinedly fair-minded, neither an apologist nor a scold, and he is a wonderfully empathetic listener, willing patiently to visit and revisit a large cast of men and women over several years to learn how they are benefiting from — and being battered by — the change going on all around them.”

“Kapur is especially qualified to assess the contrasts and contradictions all that change has brought,” he writes. “[He] is at his best when writing about what is happening out in the country, where he has chosen to live. ”

 

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CurledUp on India Becoming

CurledUp.com is a great books site, and it’s just run a nice, positive review of India Becoming, along with an interview. “A riveting cast of characters populate Kapur’s finely nuanced narrative,” writes Ram Subramaniam. “By shining a probing lens on their lives, Kapur points out how people confront, manage, and sometimes succumb to change…. He is able to skillfully penetrate the veneer of opacity posed by his interviewees and to get them to dig deep inside themselves to confront their reaction to the changes. He is part questioner and part interventionist, and he captures both sides in unobtrusive prose that lets the voices of the protagonists emerge strongly.”

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Rushdie on censorship and the air we breathe

I just read Salman Rushdie’s brilliant take on censorship, from his PEN lecture, and reprinted in The New Yorker online. He writes about the view that writers should just “offer us beauty” and avoid rocking the boat–an argument I hear so often, even from apparently liberal types who claim they defend the right to free expression but just wish writers would avoid giving offence.

Rushdie’s response: “Great art, or, let’s just say, more modestly, original art is never created in the safe middle ground, but always at the edge. Originality is dangerous. It challenges, questions, overturns assumptions, unsettles moral codes, disrespects sacred cows or other such entities. It can be shocking, or ugly, or, to use the catch-all term so beloved of the tabloid press, controversial. And if we believe in liberty, if we want the air we breathe to remain plentiful and breathable, this is the art whose right to exist we must not only defend, but celebrate. Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution.”

Coming this September, and eagerly anticipated: Rushdie’s memoir, titled Joseph Anton.

On a related note, take a look at Nilanjana Roy’s tongue-in-cheek look at subjects “Indians shouldn’t write about if they want to avoid giving offence (and going to jail.”

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India Becoming in Der Spiegel

Nice essay on India Becoming in Der Spiegel. The author of the piece, Hasnain Kazim, is the South Asia correspondent for Der Spiegel, and a thought-provoking writer. I highly recommend some of his work. See, for example, this piece on immigration in Germany.

For non-German readers (and that includes me), you can translate the article on India Becoming by opening it in a Chrome browser window and using Google Translate.

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Late Night Live

I had a very nice chat with Phillip Adams on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Late Night Live. I’d never heard the show before, but really enjoyed his laid-back conversational style. Wish I could have been in studio for the call, but it was done by phone from Pondicherry.

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