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India: A Wounded Civilization

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  704 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Returning to India -- the subject of his acclaimed An Area of Darkness -- in 1975, at the height of Indira Gandhi's Emergency, V. S. Naipaul produced this concise masterpiece of journalism and cultural analysis, a vibrant, defiantly unsentimental portrait of a society traumatized by repeated foreign invasions and immured in a mythic vision of its past. Drawing on novels, n ...more
Paperback, 175 pages
Published 1979 by Penguin Books Ltd. (first published December 12th 1976)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,465)
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I started this book expecting to enjoy it for the same reasons other readers had criticized it: Naipaul's "negativity" and his willingness to question a culture that's not his own. I do believe that an outsider can, under the right circumstances, offer a valuable perspective on a foreign country. Unfortunately, as he acknowledges in the introduction, Naipaul has a complex relationship with India that largely prevents him from treating it without bias or, it seems, anything other than smug hostil ...more
Aravind Sesagiri Raamkumar
If you are an Indian with a national pride, I would be surprised if you get through this book with your pride still afloat. Naipaul literally rips through the Indian psyche in an uncompromising and practical manner. Every aspect of India, its education system, its mindset, its administrative setup, political and religious beliefs have been ridiculed and I am not angered as the logic is telling in most occasions. Even though, this book was completed in 1976, I can see that not much has changed as ...more
I have never thought of A WOUNDED CIVILIZATION as depressing or pessimistic. I found it to be enlightening, but yes, it is hard hitting stuff. The analysis of R.K.Narayanan's novel and Gandhi's writings offer a lot of interesting insights into the Hindu psyche. Naipaul says that Gandhi traveled to the UK but never noticed anything because of his anxiety. Sudhir Kakkar gave a nod to Naipaul's analysis of Gandhi in one of his books about Indian sexuality. I don't know whether Naipaul's idea of Hin ...more
Stephen Durrant
This collection of V.S. Naipaul's essays on India was finished in 1976, almost thirty years ago. Much has happened in India since then. For one thing, the economy has expanded rapidly, and India will soon supplant Japan as the world's third largest economy. Naipaul has continued to write about India, and this reviewer must now to on to read his more recent offerings. Still, as a scathing critique of India at a particular moment in time, when the Gandhian political tradition still continued to de ...more
Naipaul fa una critica feroce dell'India e della mentalità indiana. Dà la colpa dell'arretratezza del paese all'impoverimento intellettuale degli indiani dovuto al forte legame che essi hanno con la religione e la mitologia del paese. Per colpa dell'accettazione della legge del karma e del sistema delle caste l'indiano non cerca di migliorare la propria situazione né quella del paese perché accetta il male che gli sta intorno come frutto delle vite precedenti ormai immutabili.
Naipaul consiglia
Naipul explains India, sort of. A horribly critical book, quite racist (in the sense of making broad, derogatory generalizations about an entire people, using small amounts of evidence or even just hearsay), bordering on the vitriol of a KKK pamphlet. And yet, a lot of what Naipaul points out seems correct. He's an extremely sharp observer and doesn't have to make a big production out of how absurd some Indian policies are; he makes their absurdity come across by just describing them. So he does ...more
Devraj Dutt
I have just finished chapter six of this book. Being somewhat interested in science and technology/research, I connect with this chapter the most. The author speaks about the lack of scientific inclination, the lack of humility that encourages learning and experimentation with due diligence (which is replaced by a nonchalant arrogance behind a veil of age or seniority) and of an "intellectual parasitism" that has hampered India's forays in research and development of new technology. I cannot sto ...more
Rohan Dixit
V S Naipaul’s second book much acclaimed, but rarely understood India Trilogy -India : A Wounded Civilization comes from Don Vidia’s experience post the Emergency Years of Indira Gandhi where individual freedom was brutally suppressed and views -whether political,social or almost of any kind were subverted to suit the whims of the state .I bought the book pure on the author’s reputation having been graced by a friend on how the man has an almost radar-like precision in his views on whatever subj ...more
“It seems to always be there in India: magic, the past, the death of the intellect, spirituality annulling the civilization out of which it issues, India swallowing its own tail.”

Naipaul’s “India A Wounded Civilisation” is the second of a trilogy of non-fiction books on India. It is an angry book, written as a reflection on the 1975 State of Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi. The anger is spat out in all directions: at the Indian political leadership (or lack thereof), at the crisis of the Ind
This is book written by Naipaul during his visit to India during the Emergency records his opinions and impression about India, both as a country and as a civilization. Being an person of Indian descent and born/brought up outside India, he simultaneously looks at India both as an insider and as an outsider. Some of his observations are truly astute and nuanced, especially about Gandhi.. and some of his comments can be considered brutal.. I think he is correct on the most part.. he sc ...more
Jamyang Phuntsok
For anyone who enjoys the India of Discovery Channel and Lonely Planet guidebooks, who claims to see 'beauty' in her chaos and find 'meaning' in the apparent diversity and disorder, this is a deeply provocative and disturbing book. Naipaul's views are highly critical and negative but only a fool would dismiss them without a thought. This book sets a very high standard for a travelogue combined with cultural analysis. I have read this book three times, first time way back in 2007 and quite unders ...more
Rajiv Devanagondi
In a concise but powerful essay, Naipul outlines the decay he sees in 1970s Indian society. His identification of a pervasive, introspective, backwards-looking mentality within this society, and its role in contributing to societal decay, is a little ambitious. I have trouble believing any "Indian mentality", however broadly defined, can apply to a population of more than one billion people and still have any descriptive power.

Interestingly, Naipul wrote this essay during a rather dark time in
Oh, my gosh, this book was just continuous negativity. There's no let up; he just complains about what is wrong with India, but he offers no solution. Drove me crazy.
The title caught my attention so I bought it. Naipul was a little too scathing and contemptous of every Indian thing under the sun; as the book progressed I found that his scathing critiques of people he met socially, filled me with amusement as I picturedhow horrified these people must have ben to read about Naipul's harsh and low opinion of them.
Even before reading the book, I held similar views about the debilitating impact of foreign invasions on India,however, little did I expect Naipul to
So much talent wasted on such bitterness.
Shiva Shetty

July 27 2012.

Having now read the Trilogy that this book is the 2nd of, I have this very weird thought that this is the kind of book that would be written by a acerbic reporter trailing Hari Sheldon during the dying days of The Empire of the Foundation trilogy. Parallels are haunting. Or a bitter Roman scribe writing during the waning years of Pax Romana. I have been a resident of India since birth for 34 years now and I 'get' Naipaul's supposed smug hostility. Anyone who has been living here c
== Subjective and opinionated but an interesting analysis ==

I picked out this book decades ago from a discard bin, assuming it was a novel. Only now have I gotten around to reading it, after discovering that it is not a novel but a complex social-political-religious analysis of India written in 1975-76. The author, V S Naipaul, is best known for novels and travelogues he wrote from the 1950s to the 80s. Although of East Indian descent he was born and grew up in the West Indies, moving to Englan
This book needs to be read with the other 2 - area of darkness and a million mutinies. VS Naipaul should start a consultancy where countries invite him over to write a critical report on the culture, people and the politcal/ economy. The leaders read it, have a meeting and come up with solutions.
As a side point i remember watching the 7 up series. Where researchers conducted filmed interviews with kids every 7 years and it was a bit of a nature/nurture social experiment. You would watch it and
Sadly I haven't read Naipaul in years and I forgot that even when he's at his most vitriolic and condemning he writes with such passion, intelligence, and beauty that the narrative becomes so alive. India is a travelogue, mixed with cultural analysis from an outsider's perspective (he's from Trinidad and lives in the UK but has generations of Indian roots) and literary analysis from some of the more curious texts/novels Naipaul had come across in the mid-70s. This was written during India's 'Eme ...more
A wounded, well-written prose about a wounded civilization.

This text was finished written in the month that I was born. Almost three decades later I had the chance to visit India, his "wounded" civilization. But it was not the wound that had drawn me to India. It was something that I understood as a breath of hope. Something I, probably a little naively, perceive as a hope that can be shared and learned for my own country, Indonesia. I am talking about the flourishing business of IT outsourcing
Among the three books Naipaul has written on India (Area Of Darkness, A Wounded Civilisation and third, A Million Mutinies Now), this one has to be the most scathing of them all. While the other two are travelogues in nature, A Wounded Civilisation is more of a critique - an analysis.
Since the book is so academic in nature, it's really difficult to absorb everything he says in one reading - this most certainly needs to be revisited to analyse clearly the various points the author raises.
As expe
Sean Mccarrey
At first glance this book is basically the author, (VS Naipaul) complaining about Indian nationals he meets at dinner parties in 1975. On second glance, this book is an explanation of the character or India, during one of its darkest hours in recent memory. While I'm not sure this book wasn't a bit overwrought, it explained much of the Indian state-of-mind to me, (if Naipaul's opinions can be trusted) and displayed how one of the world's largest and oldest civilizations refuses to enter the futu ...more
Naipul has an interesting viewpoint on India having lived there as well as Britain and Windies for big chunks of his life. He feels that India has let others write its history and needs to step up and make its own destiny. It is also interesting for me reading this 40 years after it was written - with the relatively recent internet economy, outsourcing, rise of education and other large trends which have helped India take these steps towards self-actualization.
He is quite critical of India at ti
Jag Rao
Its Ok. It gives an honest review from an outsider, naipaul is an outsider though of indian origin. he doesnt have romantic view of India. What he wrote on vijayanagara empire was very cruel, even chinese visitor wrote about abundant wealth during those days and thriving trade in spices, gold and pearls.
But waht he said in some sense was correct, but literature was given importance during this period, he only talked about negatives and never mentioned positives. Its good book though, he gave the
VSNaipaul..this book!!!..what can I say? I was in some tedious british colonial hunting lodge that the english stole from what was once some Indian aristocrat's private palace ground. The hotel was left over from when Gandhi chucked the english out. I was a teenager in Jaipur. There was a really annoying guy in the gift shop who only had 4 english books that he kept wrapped up in plastics. He drove me mad by refusing to BARTER...who on earth in India REFUSES to Barter? After 40mins and a break f ...more
Yea, it was good-okay. Like, Naipaul is obviously super intelligent and writes incredibly well, but for me, it's hard to get through it. It's incredibly dense, and he gives a lot of description of landscapes and environs, which I tend to space out on after awhile. I need more action and dialogue to keep me in it. But, these are just personal preferences.

He does come off as quite critical of Indians and how they've handled crises, setbacks, and run-of-the-mill problems. And he explains all of it
Saurav Sharan
Remarkable account of the country with all its diverse ideologies, philosophies and religion. I bet there is something to discover for everybody in it. Although, the conclusions from the author might be a slight exaggeration in some places but it is still worthwhile to turn its pages.
Shilpa Gulati
Harder to work through than most of Naipaul's work, and so so dense - but so insightful! Totally worth the effort. Emotional despite being so factual, and I identified with so many of his reflections. The ones I didn't agree with were still so interesting to read. I'd recommend it!
V. S. Naipul has chosen a plump moment to write about India. Extraordinary times have spawned extraordinary views.

While I disagree with several of his views - they seem too restrictive and localized - it cannot be denied that Naipul has grasped (his own particualar interpretation of) the essence of India.

I concede that I am far too young, far too ignorant, inadequately well-read to appreciate this book in its entirety. On occasion we cone across books we know we are not equal to.

What has shocke
Sidharth Mohapatra
This is the first book i read of V S Naipaul, and i got to say it is one book, to which i know am going to return again.
It gives you perspective, the way Naipaul goes from a character of a RK Narayan's novel to relating that to a general indian tendency, his analysis of Gandhi, his accounts of his travels throughout an emergency affected India, and how he puts it all as a cohesive whole which add up to give you a picture, which can sometimes shock you, can sometimes force you into self-analysis
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
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