In the popular imagination, Calcutta is a packed and pestilential sprawl, made notorious by the Black Hole and the works of Mother Teresa. Kipling called it a City of Dreadful Night, and a century later V.S. Naipaul, Günter Grass and Louis Malle revived its hellish image. This is the place where the West first truly encountered the East. Founded in the 1690s by East India Company merchants beside the Hugli River, Calcutta grew into both India's capital during the Raj and the second city of the British Empire. ...
In the popular imagination, Calcutta is a packed and pestilential sprawl, made notorious by the Black Hole and the works of Mother Teresa. Kipling called it a City of Dreadful Night, and a century later V.S. Naipaul, Günter Grass and Louis Malle revived its hellish image. This is the place where the West first truly encountered the East. Founded in the 1690s by East India Company merchants beside the Hugli River, Calcutta grew into both India's capital during the Raj and the second city of the British Empire. Named the City of Palaces for its grand neo-classical mansions, Calcutta was the city of Clive, Hastings, Macaulay and Curzon. It was also home to extraordinary Bengalis such as Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel laureate, and Satyajit Ray, among the geniuses of world cinema. Above all, Calcutta (renamed Kolkata in 2001) is a city of extremes, where exquisite refinement rubs shoulders with coarse commercialism and savage political violence. Krishna Dutta explores these multiple paradoxes, giving personal insight into Calcutta s unique history and modern identity as reflected in its architecture, literature, cinema and music. Calcutta is a City of Artists: Modern India's cultural capital; home city of Tagore, Ray and Jamini Roy; College Street and the annual book fair; a city of learning and books.
Dutta depicts Calcutta's many faces in this erudite guide to the city, which is part of the Cities of the Imagination Series. The author, who was born and raised in Calcutta and who has translated Bengali literature, divides her book into nine chapters, each one examining a different facet of the varied Indian metropolis. Her section on "Company Calcutta" identifies Calcutta's founder, Job Charnock, and pinpoints August 24, 1690 as the "beginning of Calcutta." She goes on, in that chapter, to discuss cultural mixing (between the colonizers and the colonized) in the 1700s. Another chapter, entitled "City of Strife," addresses Calcutta's longstanding image of poverty and portrays Mother Teresa as having "an uncanny understanding of the psychology of charity." Wide-ranging if dense, Dutta's work presents an in-depth portrait of one of India's most intriguing cities. A list of suggested reading, which ranges from V. S. Naipaul to Jhumpa Lahiri, along with indexes of important Calcutta people and places add to the book's value. B&w illus., maps. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), self-proclaimed intellectual nexus of India and the capital of West Bengal province, is a teeming, noisy, chaotic, and politically charged city with a longstanding Marxist governance. Founded in 1690 by East India Company agent Job Charnok, the city became the hub of the British Raj until the end of colonial rule in 1947. Part of Interlink's "Cities of the Imagination" series, which comprises travel guides to the histories of the greatest cities of the world, this book is a detailed, well-wrought panorama of the city's history. Against a sweeping background of colonialist portraits (Robert Clive, Sir William Jones, Warren Hastings, Lord Curzon) and institutions (Government House, the Asiatic Society, Victoria Memorial Hall), Dutta, who was born and raised in Kolkata and has written several books on Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, overlays a rich narrative of Bengali literary, cultural, and reformist movements and icons. These include Mother Teresa, world-renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Swami Vivekananda (a proponent of Vedanta philosophy), the artistic traditions of Khalighat painting, Kumortoli pottery, and the Durga Puja festival. Dutta's insightful history affords the armchair traveler a comprehensive introduction to the forces that have shaped Calcutta into the current Kolkata. For all libraries. [Forthcoming titles in the series include guides to St. Petersburg and Dublin.-Ed.]-Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ., Montreal Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.