Capital: The Eruption of Delhi

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Overview

In Capital, Commonwealth Prize–winning author Rana Dasgupta examines one of the great trends of our time: the expansion of the global elite.  Capital is an intimate portrait of the city of Delhi which bears witness to the extraordinary transmogrification of India’s capital. But it also offers a glimpse of what capitalism will become in the coming, post-Western world. The story of Delhi is a parable for where we are all headed.
 
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Overview

In Capital, Commonwealth Prize–winning author Rana Dasgupta examines one of the great trends of our time: the expansion of the global elite.  Capital is an intimate portrait of the city of Delhi which bears witness to the extraordinary transmogrification of India’s capital. But it also offers a glimpse of what capitalism will become in the coming, post-Western world. The story of Delhi is a parable for where we are all headed.
 
The boom following the opening up of India’s economy plunged Delhi into a tumult of destruction and creation: slums and markets were ripped down, and shopping malls and apartment blocks erupted from the ruins.  Many fortunes were made, and in the glassy stores nestled among the new highways, customers paid for global luxury with bags of cash.  But the transformation was stern, abrupt and fantastically unequal, and it gave rise to strange and bewildering feelings.  The city brimmed with ambition and rage. Violent crimes stole the headlines.
 
In the style of V. S. Naipaul’s now classic personal journeys, Dasgupta shows us this city through the eyes of its people. With the lyricism and empathy of a novelist, Dasgupta takes us through a series of encounters – with billionaires and bureaucrats, drug dealers and metal traders, slum dwellers and psychoanalysts – which plunge us into Delhi’s intoxicating, and sometimes terrifying, story of capitalist transformation.  Together these people comprise a generation on the cusp, like that of Gilded Age New York: who they are, and what they want, says a tremendous amount about what the world will look like in the rest of the twenty-first century.
 
Interweaving over a century of history with his personal journey, Dasgupta presents us with the first literary portrait of one of the twenty-first century’s fastest-growing megalopolises – a dark and uncanny portrait that gives us insights, too, as to the nature of our own – everyone’s – shared, global future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/28/2014
In this profound and fascinating book, Dasgupta (Tokyo Cancelled) conducts a series of interviews and personal explorations which reveal the history and evolution of the city of Delhi, examined through the attitudes and opinions of its inhabitants. He paints a picture of wealth and privilege, poverty and neglect, rampant corruption and boundless ambition, emphasizing the dichotomy which has transformed the landscape over the past few decades. It's a telling look at the author himself, Delhi and its people, and the 21st Century Indian culture as a whole. Packed with revelatory details and vivid in its impressions, this book covers everything from business to pleasure, sex to marriage, showing how Delhi has become a place of opportunity built on the backs of its residents. Dasgupta's sprawling narrative vibrantly captures the hustle of the current generation as they steer Delhi toward its global economic future. It's both a love letter to a city in transition and a haunting cautionary tale. (May)
From the Publisher
Salman Rushdie:
"Rana Dasgupta's Capital is a terrific portrait of Delhi right now and hits a lot of nails on the head."

The New Yorker:
“[An] unsparing portrait of moneyed Delhi, no telling detail seems to escape Dasgupta’s notice. His novelistic talents are matched by his skill at eliciting astonishing candor from his subjects. The best passages are incisive summaries of the human and environmental costs of the elite’s wealth and privilege and his persuasive predictions of crises yet to come. Dasgupta constantly seeks to upend conventional wisdom about Delhi, the murky circulation of its money, and the roots of its periodic outbursts of violence, making this one of the most worthwhile in a strong field of recent books about India’s free-market revolution and its unintended consequences.”

Ramachandra Guha, The New Republic:
“Dasgupta [uses] his profiles to reflect more broadly on the beauty and savagery of capitalism, its zest and drive, its haste and amorality…Capital is principally a book about the wealthy and the well-connected of Delhi. Yet there are some telling pages on the Anglophone middle class, and on the generational changes within it… The excerpts from interviews with businessmen and fixers…[are] revealing as well as chilling…[Dasgupta’s] analysis is often original and the writing always outstanding.”

Library Journal (starred): 
“A grim picture of a city run by oligarchs and the ‘new black-money elite,’ where success depends on ‘influence, assets, and connections.’ This book is highly recommended for anyone looking for background information on Delhi…The author’s account of the downside of the post-1991 free market economy and the pursuit of self-interest above all serves as a cautionary tale, doing for Delhi what Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City accomplished for Mumbai.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“A sincere, troubling look at India’s wrenching social and cultural changes.”

The Guardian (UK):
“A vivid and haunting account…Dasgupta’s combination of reportage, political critique and oral history is mordant rather than dyspeptic, sorrowful rather than castigatory. But what makes it more than a local study, what makes it so haunting, is that its textured, tart accounts of the privatisation of public space, of the incestuous relationship between the political and business classes, of the precarity that renders daily life so fraught all apply as much to Britain and the west as they do to the Indian capital.” 

The Times (UK):
“In his portrait of this hubris and its aftermath, Rana Dasgupta peels back the layers of denial with insight, humanity and, at times, exquisitely beautiful writing. He exposes some festering wounds but succeeds in fascinating rather than repelling… [Dasgupta] brings insights that flow from compassion and understanding along with access to the clique nexus of politics and money.”

The Observer (UK):
“Intense, lyrical, erudite, and powerful.”

Financial Times:
“[Dasgupta] mostly lets his subjects speak for themselves…The interviews at the core of the book are a cleverly tangential way to investigate a city that is among the world’s largest—about 22m people live in and around Delhi—and has been made a microcosm of India by the hundreds of thousands who arrive each year as migrants. As we read of Delhi’s frantic modernisation—from, among others, an outsourcing entrepreneur, a gay fashion designer, a property speculator, assorted tycoons and the victims of medical scams that extract cash from the relatives of the dying—we trace Dasgupta’s personal journey from excited arrival in 2000 to disillusionment.”

The Independent (UK):
Capital sets a scholarly and sympathetic tone…[Dasgupta’s] subjects are as varied as the city’s upper and lower classes, men and women, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; property magnates, money launderers, technology entrepreneurs and activists working to uplift Delhi’s slum areas…A remarkable and exhaustive account of a primordial free-zone whose assets are being stripped by the wealthy.”

The Telegraph (UK):
“Compelling, often terrifying…[Dasgupta’s] lyrical encounters with a wide range of modern Delhiites reveal a novelist’s ear and are beautifully sketched.”

The International New York Times:
“Lyrical and haunting.”

The Spectator:
Capital is constructed around a series of mesmerising interviews . . . Among many lively episodes in Dasgupta’s appropriately large, sprawling and populous book is one describing the experience of driving in Delhi.”

South China Morning Post (Hong Kong):
“[Dasgupta] shows observational acuity worthy of Don DeLillo… [An] edgy, visionary masterpiece.”

William Dalrymple, author of City of Djinns:
Capital is a beautifully written study of a corrupt, violent and traumatized city growing so fast it is almost unrecognizable to its own inhabitants.  An astonishing tour de force by a major writer at the peak of his powers, it will do for Delhi what Suketu Mehta so memorably did for Bombay with Maximum City.”

Praise for Rana Dasgupta's Solo:

Salman Rushdie:
“Rana Dasgupta [is] the most unexpected and original Indian writer of his generation”

James Wood, The New Yorker:
“[Dasgupta is] graced with an ironic eye and a gift for sentences of lancing power and beauty.”

The Guardian (UK)
A vivid and haunting account...Dasgupta's combination of reportage, political critique and oral history is mordant rather than dyspeptic, sorrowful rather than castigatory. But what makes it more than a local study, what makes it so haunting, is that its textured, tart accounts of the privatisation of public space, of the incestuous relationship between the political and business classes, of the precarity that renders daily life so fraught all apply as much to Britain and the west as they do to the Indian capital.
The Times (UK) please see attached
In his portrait of this hubris and its aftermath, Rana Dasgupta peels back the layers of denial with insight, humanity and, at times, exquisitely beautiful writing. He exposes some festering wounds but succeeds in fascinating rather than repelling... [Dasgupta] brings insights that flow from compassion and understanding along with access to the clique nexus of politics and money.
Financial Times
[Dasgupta] mostly lets his subjects speak for themselves...The interviews at the core of the book are a cleverly tangential way to investigate a city that is among the world's largest - about 22m people live in and around Delhi - and has been made a microcosm of India by the hundreds of thousands who arrive each year as migrants. As we read of Delhi's frantic modernisation - from, among others, an outsourcing entrepreneur, a gay fashion designer, a property speculator, assorted tycoons and the victims of medical scams that extract cash from the relatives of the dying - we trace Dasgupta's personal journey from excited arrival in 2000 to disillusionment.
The Independent (UK)
CAPITAL sets a scholarly and sympathetic tone...[Dasgupta's] subjects are as varied as the city's upper and lower classes, men and women, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; property magnates, money launderers, technology entrepreneurs and activists working to uplift Delhi's slum areas...A remarkable and exhaustive account of a primordial free-zone whose assets are being stripped by the wealthy.
The Telegraph (UK)
Compelling, often terrifying...[Dasgupta's] lyrical encounters with a wide range of modern Delhiites reveal a novelist's ear and are beautifully sketched.
Library Journal
★ 05/01/2014
In this nonfiction debut, British Indian writer Dasgupta (winner of the 2010 Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best Book, Solo) turns his attention to a postmillennial Delhi, a city in the "vortex of change," where he has been living for the last 13 years. Through both commentary and a series of lengthy profiles of Delhi residents in their own words, the author shows the transformation that has occurred in this century. Those portrayed range from a pioneer of business process outsourcing, the immensely rich and ambitious civil servants who bemoan the collusion between politics and big business, an ex-NGO (nongovernmental organization) employee working in a slum settlement, and an environmentalist who laments the present-day disregard for indigenous ways of water conservation. What emerges from these narratives is a grim picture of a city run by oligarchs and the "new black-money elite," where success depends on "influence, assets, and connections." VERDICT This book is highly recommended for anyone looking for background information on Delhi, as Dasgupta puts forth arguable theories about the city's history and the Punjabi psyche. Still, the author's account of the downside of the post-1991 free market economy and the pursuit of self-interest above all serves as a cautionary tale, doing for Delhi what Suketu Mehta's Maximum City accomplished for Mumbai.—Ravi Shenoy, Naperville, IL
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
Deep, unsettling explorations into a city that has lost its soul, from a British-Indian novelist who has lived in Delhi for more than 10 years. In the two-plus decades since the 1991 "liberalisation" of the Indian economy, writes Dasgupta (Solo, 2011, etc.), its capital city has been radically transformed. Once a quiet, bureaucratic, family-oriented haven for refugees from the convulsions of the 1947 partition, Delhi is now a nakedly acquisitive engine for getting rich quick. The advent of globalization and the embrace of open markets and free enterprise brought great hope that a "new reality, uncanny and wonderful…would emerge." But as part of this new reality, land prices rose through the roof, displacing masses of longtime residents and replacing the city's famous green spaces with malls and high-rent blocks. The entrepreneurial frenzy made millionaires overnight; a new middle class broke with old traditions such as arranged marriages; and crime escalated, especially against women. The new fast-and-loose lifestyle has created what Dasgupta describes as trauma and neurosis in the people he met. His lengthy interviews with the new bourgeoisie and various upstarts alternate with historical glimpses of Delhi's important early development, including the establishment of the Mughal capital there in the 17th century, the destruction of much of the Mughal city (and Urdu culture) by the British after the 1857 sepoy uprising and the rebuilding of the city in 1911. Muslim residents fled or were hounded out after partition, encouraging an influx of Punjabis (Sikhs) who make up a large portion of today's entrepreneurs. The "mindless and heartless consumerism" of the affluent West, rejected by India under socialist-minded founder Jawaharlal Nehru and his dynasty, has now been embraced. A sincere, troubling look at India's wrenching social and cultural changes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594204470
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/15/2014
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 538,592
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Rana Dasgupta won the 2010 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book for his debut novel Solo. He is also the author of a collection of urban folktales, Tokyo Cancelled, which was shortlisted for the 2005 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Capital is his first work of non-fiction. Born in Canterbury in 1971, he now lives in Delhi.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2014

    Could not read sample

    Tried to read sample but it kept getting stuck at page 7.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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