Authors

Make a note of this

NEW DELHI, 06/12/2016: Writer and historian, William Dalrymple during an interview at Bikaner House in New Delhi on Tuesday. 
Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

NEW DELHI, 06/12/2016: Writer and historian, William Dalrymple during an interview at Bikaner House in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Writer and art historian William Dalrymple retraced the Marco Polo’s journey in his book, In Xanadu. His book on Delhi, City of Djinns in 1992 harks back to a time when the Indian capital was a Punjabi town.

In Bengaluru, on the sidelines of a discussion on Travel writing at the Humming Tree in Indiranagar, Dalrymple says, “When I look back on my travel books, I am reminded of a world that does not exist any more. For instance, the Delhi that I wrote about in 1992 has all but vanished and has been replaced by the cosmopolitan melting pot that the city is today. I call Delhi the New York of India for its diversity. That holds true for China as well.”

He adds, “I like Bengaluru very much. However, this is a very different city from the one I visited back in 1984. Then it was a sleepy town with a turf club. It has transformed into a bustling vibrant metropolis.”

A travel book, William explains is similar to a vessel where a cocktail of ingredients can be poured including politics, archaeology, history, philosophy. “I have enjoyed reading Katie Hickman’s travels with a Mexican circus and Sam Weinberg’s quest for the mercenary Bob Denard or Jeremy Seal searching Turkey for the anthropology of the fez. John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – that includes a murder mystery and travel writing is also very enjoyable.”

The Scotland-born author says, “For good travel writing, it is important to have a notebook in your hand at all times. It helps in sketching out the basic details. The process of creating great writing can come much later and at home in front of a computer. It is even more important when you are recording conversations, it is impossible to remember the exact words, even an hour later. The travel writers I really admire, Theroux, Thubron, Chatwin all kept exceptionally detailed notes.”

At the event, Willam talked about the impact of globalisation on travel writing. “It is important for travel writers to interpret the complexity of the globalised world and be able to give a first person account of how people in different cultures live and behave. It is this perspective that sets aside travel writing from a search on google. Travel writing has existed at all points of our history.”

In India, William is a huge fan of the works by Amitav Ghosh in his book, In an Antique Land, that retraced a journey in Egypt and Samanth Subramanian’s book on Sri Lanka, The Divided Island. “My favourite remains Suketu Mehta's Maximum City . I feel Suketu is one of the best travel writers of my generation.”

Talking about his latest writing project, Kohinoor: The Story of the Worlds most infamous diamond , in collaboration with Anita Anand, Dalrymple says, “There is a lot of misinformation about the Kohinoor. We decided to trace this journey after the solicitor general of India falsely claimed last year that the diamond was a gift handed to the British. We wanted to get the myths out of the way.”

At the event, William read from his books from Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India and In Xanadu . The extract he read was a Jain nun Prasannamati Mataji’s recalling her friend, Prayogamati Mataji, observing a ritualistic fast unto death and of an orthodox priest predicting the apocalypse in Lebanon.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 4, 2022 10:39:58 am | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/make-a-note-of-this/article17394114.ece