Jack's Reviews > City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
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's review
Jun 07, 14

it was amazing
bookshelves: travel
Read from April 09 to June 02, 2014

What a wonderful tribute to Delhi. Dalrymple makes a compelling case that the title of the eternal city belongs to the city on the Jumna/Yamuna (which has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC) instead of the Tiber.

Dalrymple manages a patchwork of stories that paints a surprisingly rich and multifaceted portrait of Delhi through history as well as present in this short book. The book reflects his one-year stay in the ancient capital with his wife Olivia, and as readers we get to know the city through colorful locals such as Madame Puri the spunky maternal Sikh landlord, his resourceful cab driver, and the sage-like Muslim scholar Dr. Jaffrey.

The author gives us the ugly as well as the beautiful, telling the riveting plight of the Hijras (modern-day descendents of the eunuch lineage in Delhi reduced from court officials under the Moghuls to panderers for change from threatening to flash themselves), and the recent interreligious violence so vivid in firsthand memories from residents of the massacre of Sikhs that took place in Delhi neighborhoods such as Trilokpuri in the 80s.

Dalrymple effectively portrays Delhi as a quicksilver city, constantly changing and often at a maddeningly quick pace. We follow him as he learns the history of the city from pre-Islamic days of Hindu despots, to Muslim rulers of the early AD centuries (often equally bloodthirsty), through the Mongol invasion and the long rule of the Moghul emperors, and past the relatively brief British dominion to the modern era.

Always vivid, seemlessly told, one cannot help but want desperately to visit Delhi after a reading.

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Reading Progress

04/09/2014 marked as: currently-reading
06/07/2014 marked as: read

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