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Simon Winchester's Calcutta (Travel Literature Series)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  59 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
Simon Winchester has joined forces with his son, Rupert, to reflect on that crazy, captivating and elusive Indian city, Calcutta. They have chosen their selection of favourite writings on Calcutta, resulting in a uniquely personal view of one of the world's most resonant destinations.
Paperback, 302 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by Lonely Planet (first published October 1st 2004)
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This is a book with a history of Calcutta written by Simon Winchester and his son, which to be fair is quite detailed, but fairly dry. After this and a couple of short essays by the Winchesters, there are a load of excerpts on the topic of Calcutta. Some are great, some not so.
There are some heavy hitters included - Clark Blaise & Bharati Mukherjee, William Dalrymple, Dominique Lapierre, Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark, VS Naipaul were the better for me. Others included Geoffrey Moorhous
Matt Friedman
Published by Lonely Planet, this is clearly a book meant to give a tourist a fairly quick overview of Calcutta/Kolkata, perhaps on the train to Howrah. It is a decidedly mixed bag, however. Some of the essays offered here are actually excerpts from the works of some classic writers on Calcutta. These include both Indians such as Vikram Seth and Rabindranath Tagore as well as older foreign writers who experienced Calcutta or researched its history, such as Mark Twain, Gunter Grass and William Dal ...more
David Bales
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
A truly remarkable set of excerpts from various books about the truly remarkable city of Calcutta, (now Kolkata) all coordinated by Simon Winchester who also contributes a tale, as does his son. Calcutta is unique in that in the heart of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth, it is a relatively young city, founded only in 1690 by the British East India Company to facilitate trade from Bengal. The history of the multicultural city is presented here, (the British took over directly after ...more
The Style Page
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, india
The first part of Simon Winchester's Calcutta includes a history of Calcutta (Kolkata) written by Simon Winchester. Some readers might be turned off by Winchester's characterization of freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose as "buffoonish" and "one of the great villains." However, his assessment of Mother Theresa, which draws upon the work of Aroup Chatterjee and the late Christopher Hitchens, is spot on.

The second part of the book features excerpts about Calcutta from the works of a diverse
Jul 01, 2009 rated it liked it
As advertised, the history section is succinct and commendably so, thus, it is successful in providing the reader/traveler an important, albeit brief, background to the city. The rest of the book, as another reviewer pointed out, makes way too much of the contrast/conflict between east and west and all other contrasts that are inevitably present in a diverse community like the megalopolis of Kolkata. The best of these tales, though, is the piece by Bharati Mukherjee and Clark Blaise in which the ...more
Aug 10, 2008 rated it liked it
I really dug the "brief history" that the Winchester father and son duo write about the city. Their research and journalism give the reader a solid foundation on British colonialism, myths,truths, and historical figures. But the rest of this book is sort of a "Calcutta reader" with a bunch of Joseph Conrad-type perspectives on the city from various western travel writers. How many times do I want to hear the redundant insights: Oh the squalor, but I love it so, it's such a powerful city, the roa ...more
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love Simon Winchester, but the introduction seems more written by his son and is not as strong as the rest of the book, which is a collection of excerpts from literature involving Calcutta for the past several hundred years, to capture the essence of the city. While some choices are better than others, many are beautifully written and will serve as sources for later reading. It is a great introduction to Calcutta, especially if you have some basic knowledge of the city.
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-asia
Great fun. Recently read while travelling in Calcutta and Orissa and it thoroughly enhanced the trip. Excellent short history of the city and well-chosen excerpts from other authors from 1700s to present describing their experiences in the city. Would make a good armchair traveller read as well.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
But for the small type........if only this were an ebook!! This is a wonderful anthology of writings regarding Calcutta (or Kolkata, if you insist!)
Guy Ferguson
Feb 25, 2016 marked it as to-read
Bought this in Kokaata in Jan 2011, to get a flavour of the city. Some great short pieces. However I did not get past the foreword, so I should not comment...
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel publ ...more
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