Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “India: A Wounded Civilization” as Want to Read:
India: A Wounded Civilization
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

India: A Wounded Civilization

(India Trilogy #2)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,199 ratings  ·  123 reviews
In 1975, at the height of Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency,” V. S. Naipaul returned to India, the country his ancestors had left one hundred years earlier. Out of that journey he produced this concise masterpiece: a vibrant, defiantly unsentimental portrait of a society traumatized by centuries of foreign conquest and immured in a mythic vision of its past.

Drawing on
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 6th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1976)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about India, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about India

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,199 ratings  ·  123 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of India: A Wounded Civilization
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Naipaul is not a much-liked figure in India. There are good reasons for it. First, nation-states do not like being condemned or harshly judged, and India is no exception. Second, if a writer in his bashing enthusiasm goes on hitting while ignoring some key facts about a particular people and their history, he loses some of his credibility. However, there is a lot in Naipaul's oeuvre that cannot be dismissed, no matter how much his work makes one cringe.

He sees deep flaws in contempor
Aravind 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
Sidharth Vardhan
Sep 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
I’m quite okay with what gets termed as ‘India Bashing’ (or, if for that matter, bashing of any other country) as often it is just a veil used by powerful to suppress criticism pointed at them but my one condition is that author should actually feel concerned for the people. That she/he is frustrated and seems to be frowning at the circumstances too is fine by me.

What is not fine is when it is done by a author who seems to scorning at the people, feeling disgusted at them as if he be
Jerry Jose
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
In the forward, Naipaul identifies himself to be of the New World, having been raised in a far more homogeneous Indian community in Trinidad, than the isolated countrymen Gandhi met in South Africa in 1983. He also admits to have been washed clean off many religious attitudes, which according to him, are essential in understanding Indian civilization. This book is a collection of 8 essays in 3 parts, on his experiences and observations about the mainland, during Internal Emergency(1975-1977).

With this knowledge at o
Jul 12, 2008 rated it liked it
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
The great G. K. Chesterton once noted that he had an idea for a novel that he was either “too busy or too lazy" to actualize. The plot concerned a yachtsman who through miscalculation lands in England when he believes he’s discovered a new island in the South Pacific. Despite some beautiful prose, I believe something akin happened to V.S. Naipaul when he traveled to India. Every broken lightbulb or beggar confirms his thesis of a failed people, unsuited for intellectual endeavor and seemingly Na ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a book about India, but it could be about "oriental fatalism" more generally, which Naipaul never ceased to notice or despise. Naipaul criticizes the psychology of Hinduism from the perspective of someone who is culturally Hindu himself. He engages in his usual curmudgeonly tourism and shares his lacerating observations. The medieval squalor of Indian life is depicted in evocative terms. There are also extended attacks on Gandhi and certain Indian literary figures of the 1970s. The Briti ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: naipaul
A fascinating view of India during the Emergency in 1975-1976. Naipaul has a very negative view of India and its obsession with Gandhism. A good quote that sums up his viewpoint is ‘Gandhi swept through India, but he has left it without an ideology. He awakened the Holy land; his mahatmahood returned it to archaism; he made his worshippers vain.’

Although the eight essays in this book were published 40 years ago their relevance can still be seen today in India. Bonded labour or slaver
Feb 08, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travelogue
4.5/5 This is the 2nd book in the 3 books that Naipaul has written on India. They were written in 1962, 1977 and 1989 but each of d 3 books seem relevant even today. While the 3rd one is almost completely in d words of ppl bring interviewed and there is little commentary, this one like the first, is all commentary by Naipaul - brutal, honest, relentless, sharp observations on India and Indians.
The author says that in our self-absorption, we engage in self-deception and false glorification
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indic
One of the best books you'll read on India. While the economic constraints coming off in the 1980s ensured a less pessimistic outcome for India, the wounds are still not fully recovered and can be inflamed at any time.
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: terrible-honesty
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
Every single word will cut you and make you bleed. A challenging work to read as an Indian for it makes you question every notion of Indianness.
Savil Srivastava
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
A dated but good, easy read. Naipaul minces no words, dispensing with the romanticism of most non-Indian writers writing on India. Refreshingly honest.

Modern India has changed a lot since the 70s. The lack of ambition has been almost fully replaced by a huge energy to get ahead and get rich. But in some respect, the intellectual decay, glorification of the mythical past and unwillingness to break from the ills of this past remain civilizationally intact. The Indian Renaissance is still some tim
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
So much talent wasted on such bitterness.
Rohan Dixit
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Naipaul is cutting edge in this desection of Indian culture and religion. Instead of going the theory way to ask and answer what is a nation and hence a patriot, he looks at the state of Indian-ness we have adopted. This was written 1975, during the Emergency, and while a lot of India has changed, now even hailing modernity and gadgets as a part of it, it still returns to this yearning of a pure historical place. The fight is particularly aimed today at Muslims, so as to eradicate the infiltrato ...more
In his An Area of Darkness V. S. Naipaul had measured the India of 1963 against the nostalgic, imagined India from his childhood days of growing up in the Indian community of Trinidad and – rather unsurprisingly – found it much wanting. Here, in his second book on India, he attempts to take the India of 1976 on its own terms – and the result are not much better, possibly even worse.

India: A Wounded Civilization is a very different book from its predecessor which according to Naipaul’s preface (added for a later/>India:
Jamyang Phuntsok
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 'Emergenc ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“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 crisi
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Rajesh CNB
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
India bashing at a thought-provoking level

I have been thinking of reading Naipaul for a long long time. I think I first saw the title "India: A Million Mutinies Now" and was impressed by it. Also, I know that Naipaul is a very accomplished writer. It's worth reading a Nobel Laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winner! Also, I am reading The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan and An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor, both about India and I thought it would be a good idea to get yet another point of view about India.
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephen Durrant
Nov 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, india
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
Rajiv Devanagondi
Oct 06, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I firmly believe that I have no authority to review the genius of Mr. Naipaul. Therefore, what follows should be taken as a fledgling's understanding and takeaways from a masterpiece.

To begin with, being born in Trinidad and Tobago and educated in England, Mr. Naipaul acknowledges his disconnect with the civilization he was born in. And it is that man, extremely conscious of his roots, but alienated from them due to his circumstances, goes on an expedition of his parent civilization
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography
  • The Moor's Last Sigh
  • Annihilation of Caste
  • An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions
  • India Wins Freedom: The Complete Version
  • Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man
  • Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny
  • The Man Who Saved India
  • India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy
  • The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
  • The Discovery of India
  • Truth, Love and a Little Malice
  • A Letter to a Hindu
  • Beyond the Lines: An Autobiography
  • Nine Lives
  • Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
  • The Carpetbaggers
  • The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul
See similar books…
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 Governmen

Other books in the series

India Trilogy (3 books)
  • An Area of Darkness
  • India: A Million Mutinies Now
“India is old, and India continues. But all the disciplines and skills that India now seeks to exercise are borrowed. Even the ideas Indians have of the achievements of their civilization are essentially the ideas given them by European scholars in the nineteenth century. India by itself could not have rediscovered or assessed its past. Its past was too much with it, was still being lived out in the ritual, the laws, the magic – the complex instinctive life that muffles response and buries even the idea of inquiry.” 3 likes
“Narayan’s novels did not prepare me for the distress of India. As a writer he had succeeded almost too well. His comedies were of the sort that requires a restricted social setting with well-defined rules; and he was so direct, his touch so light, that, though he wrote in English of Indian manners, he had succeeded in making those exotic manners quite ordinary. I did not lose my admiration for Narayan; but I felt that his comedy and irony were not quite what they had appeared to be, were part of a Hindu response to the world, a response I could no longer share. Narayan’s novels are less the purely social comedies I had once taken them to be than religious books, at times religious fables, and intensely Hindu.” 1 likes
More quotes…