Nine Lives

Nine Lives

In Search of the Sacred in Modern India

Book - 2009
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From the author of The Last Mughal ("A compulsively readable masterpiece" -- The New York Review of Books ), an exquisite, mesmerizing book that illuminates the remarkable ways in which traditional forms of religious life in India have been transformed in the vortex of the region's rapid change--a book that distills the author's twenty-five years of travel in India, taking us deep into ways of life that we might otherwise never have known exist.

A Buddhist monk takes up arms to resist the Chinese invasion of Tibet--and spends the rest of his life atoning for the violence by hand printing the finest prayer flags in India . . . A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her closest friend ritually starve herself to death . . . A woman leaves her middle-class life in Calcutta and finds unexpected fulfillment living as a Tantric in an isolated, skull-filled cremation ground . . . A prison warder from Kerala is worshipped as an incarnate deity for three months of every year . . . An idol carver, the twenty-third in a long line of sculptors, must reconcile himself to his son's desire to study computer engineering . . . An illiterate goatherd from Rajasthan keeps alive in his memory an ancient four-thousand-stanza sacred epic . . . A temple prostitute, who initially resisted her own initiation into sex work, pushes both her daughters into a trade she nonetheless regards as a sacred calling.

William Dalrymple chronicles these lives with expansive insight and a spellbinding evocation of circumstance. And while the stories reveal the vigorous resilience of individuals in the face of the relentless onslaught of modernity, they reveal as well the continuity of ancient traditions that endure to this day. A dazzling travelogue of both place and spirit.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2009
ISBN: 9780307272829
Branch Call Number: 294.092254 DAL 2009
Characteristics: xvii, 275 p. : map ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: 9 lives


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Jan 19, 2012

In one of the middle chapters, I found Dalrymple's facts to absurd. To bolster one of his points he claims that the literacy rate in the US is 77%. While different yardsticks are used to measure literacy, that figure is absurd. Both UNESCO and the CIA Factbook cite adult literacy at 99% in the US.

In the same chapter, Dalrymple upholds a source that claims New Yorkers viewed 9/11 as being akin to Diehard 5, or some similar nonsense. It's cheap offensive politicking on Dalrymple's part. This is a book on India!

After reading nonsense like the above, I began to get the sense that Dalrymple gets away with a lot because most of his readers are unfamiliar with the subject.

Sep 22, 2011

Did not read this book- I read
IN XANADU by the same author- his quest to follow Marco Polo-- I would rate it a 4.

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