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on May 19, 2011
The author researched the subject and wrote an excellent book about New Delhi, the history of the City, the inhabitants of the City from inception to date, their culture, religions, beliefs and the role the English played in the history and development of India. I found very interesting the portion of the book on djinns and the role of Mughals in the history and development of New Delhi. Coverage of the historical landmarks in New Delhi was interesting and informative. I intend to read all if not most of the author's books as I finished this book, thinking it is well researched, written and informative. I read this book after returning from India and the contents gave me a better perspective of New Delhi. I strongly recommend this book as a travel guide/book to be read before visiting New Delhi especially if one is interested in "old" and not modern day India.
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on September 10, 2007
« City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi » William Dalrymple HarperCollins 1993

« City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi » was my travel reading for my first trip to India in the summer of 2007, a trip which began and ended in Delhi. Having read other writers and other Dalrymple books on India before I set out, I read « City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi » first on my outward journey, and then reviewed it again as we made our way back to Delhi on the last stage of our tour. The book was an invaluable resource, supplementing the ill-informed and poorly spoken guides who were difficult to understand and unable to answer questions in any depth. Dalrymple's book helped me to tie the city and its sites and history together into some sort of coherent whole. I also found the pen-and-ink illustrations by Dalrymple's wife Olivia Fraser very illuminating. Although at first sight they struck me as much too calm and uncluttered to convey the true image of the places they posed, I later came to appreciate how they captured the inherent essence of their subject and spoke volumes in their simple way.

As a journalist, Dalrymple has a knack for finding the right people to talk with - people with living memories of the time he writes about, who can bring to life the crumbling ruins they inhabit and instil us with visions of the beauty that once radiated in Delhi. It is certainly difficult to see today but reading the stories did help me to understand the sensibilities of some of the « Delhi-wallahs » we encountered in our travels.

My one criticism of the book is that he reuses material that has appeared elsewhere, which broke the rhythm of my involvement with his story and made me feel uncomfortable. These passages were extensive, and not changed sufficiently to feel new in any way. I was surprised that his editors allowed this to pass, unless there were deadline difficulties.

The overall impression that I was left with is that India today is still suffering from the reverberations of the devastation of partition, which brought incomprehensible tragedy and hardship and touched almost every family in India in one way or another. As we watch India vie for its place in the globalised technological marketplace, we will understand her better if we remember this recent back-story in her development.
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on May 31, 2004
"City of Djinns" is an excellent account of a year spent in Delhi. William Dalrymple writes in a lively, often funny but always informative manner. The best travel writing manages to blend impressions of a country or place with descriptions of its people, as well as giving the reader a wider historical or social context. Dalrymple, being an historian, is skilled at the latter, yet he also has a keen eye for architecture and the oddities of the locals: he describes a variety of Dehli residents from International Backside Taxis and its drivers, his landlady, pigeon enthusiasts, hijras, through to partridge fights and more.
I thought that Dalrymple is particularly good at placing the British influence on India in context. Like much of Delhi's past, the British presence (or at least the physical signs of it) seems to have been erased. For that which remains, such as Lutyens's buildings, Dalrymple puts their impact into a new perspective.
"City of Djinns" is an affectionate book about Delhi and India, yet not an uncritical one. A lot is packed into 340 pages, and it's well worth the read.
G Rodgers
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on January 26, 2004
After Dalrymple's amazing first book "In Xanadu", "City of Djinns" is a very worthy follow-up. It deals not with a journey but with the author living in Delhi for and extended period of time. William and his wife Olivia live in an apartment in Delhi with a Sikh lady and her crazy husband. Together and separately, they explore the various strands of the city.
Like "In Xanadu", Dalrymple combines erudite historical investigation with a humorous account of life today. The historical aspect of the book is very complicated. Delhi has an ancient Hindu history, a Muslim Mughal one, a Punjabi/Urdu one, the Partition phase and its modern story. In this book, Dalrymple tries his hand at digging through a bit of them all. From the violence of the Gandhi assasination riots to the extravagances of the Mughal court, he leaves nothing unturned.
His warm and clever perspective shines light on a city where so many cultures and ways of life come side by side, from the modern secularised Sikhs (like Balvinder, their taxi driver) to the huge hermaphrodite community in the city. A highly informative and entertaining book.
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on December 19, 2003
This is definitely one of the best books I have read. Dalrymple has a fascinating way of writing. He does not just drab on about a place in a matter of the fact way as the usual travel books do. He speaks to the people and gets the different emotions of the place out of them. Inspite of being from India-Bombay, I was never lucky enough to explore Delhi for a longer period of time.
This book very interestingly goes backwards into the history of the city of Delhi. The Mughal part and the part on partition had me hooked on to the book. The writer visits Karachi, Shimla, Daulatabad and a number of othe places to get the essence of Delhi.
Unfortunately for those planning to go to Delhi, while the City of Djinns makes fascinating reading, most of today's Delhi is a big mess. All the people from Delhi I have met, only have bad words about it. The population, crime rate, congestion, pollution are all very high. The once beautiful city of high Dehli- Urdu culture and tehzeeb (manners), has now been overtaken by a host of nouveau riche Punjabi immigrants who have given the city financial prosperity but made it lose its essence..... its heart.
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on March 21, 2015
I never saw delhi the way i did while reading the book. Dalrymple creates and destroys the city with every transition into a new epoch that existed in delhi. And then shows you the beauty of living in the 'newer Delhi'. It means something to me, considering i was born and brought up in delhi and i have never longed to go back, till now.
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on August 3, 2002
this book is great.I really like the way W.D. describes his living in Delhi, he is funny and he never patronizes.
I found strange how he always finds this amazing people there just to help him.
he is very educated but sometimes I think he shows off all his knowledge..
anyway my next trip to india will be to delhi
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on November 11, 2014
Mr. Dalrymple's work is a delight. He provides well-researched information in a highly readable and entertaining way.
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on November 5, 2015
A literally wonderful book! - full of wonders, strange, humorous delightful horrifying.
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on May 22, 2016
Am only part way through the book but am enjoying it immensely. Learning a lot about the history of India and the troubles after Partition.
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