City of Dreadful Night: A Tale of Horror and the Macabre in India

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Overview

City of Dreadful Night is an astonishing work of fiction, a tangle of tales that transports the reader from the Medieval India of magicians, witches, and vampires, through the British colonial period with its culture clashes and simmering unrest, into the chaos and political terror of contemporary India. Flesh-eating demons, Rajiv Gandhi's assassin, even Bram Stoker and Dracula populate the serpentine narrative, which intermingles stories about the characters with the terrifying tales they tell. At the heart of ...
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1995 Softcover 8vo, paperback. New. Still in shrinkwrap--never opened, never used. 255 p.

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Overview

City of Dreadful Night is an astonishing work of fiction, a tangle of tales that transports the reader from the Medieval India of magicians, witches, and vampires, through the British colonial period with its culture clashes and simmering unrest, into the chaos and political terror of contemporary India. Flesh-eating demons, Rajiv Gandhi's assassin, even Bram Stoker and Dracula populate the serpentine narrative, which intermingles stories about the characters with the terrifying tales they tell. At the heart of the book is an itinerant teller of ghost tales called Brahm Kathuwala, an old man wearing amulets around his neck and a silk top hat with peacock plumes. As Siegel follows him all over north India, Brahm's life story is revealed through countless interlocking tales. We learn of his two mothers - one the destitute floor sweeper who bore him; the other a wealthy Irish woman who read and reread to him the story of Dracula. We hear of his marriage to the daughter of a cremation ground attendant and his battles against her demonic possession. We come to understand the strange life of this man who uses terrifying tales to ward off the evil he himself fears.

The product of Siegel's deep knowledge of both Indian and Western literary and philosophical traditions, this book is also an attempt to come to grips with the omnipresence of political and religious strife in contemporary India. Shockingly original, this is a captivating immersion in the wonder and terror of India, past and present.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ancient Sanskrit tales of horror meet Bram Stoker's Dracula by way of an elderly storyteller in postcolonial India: Siegel, a professor of religion at the University of Hawaii, has assembled this bizarre but brilliant novel from sources spanning the corners of anthropology, history and oral storytelling traditions into a garish, fanciful kaleidoscope. Divided into seven sections headed by quotes from Sigmund Freud, Stephen King and 11th-century Indian religious texts, the narrative falls into three basic layers. The first is Siegel's straightforward account of his 1991 trip to India to research a book on ``horror and the macabre in India,'' where he learns of Brahm Kathuwala, a renowned vagrant storyteller. At the novel's core is Brahm's own story, fluctuating from the present to flashbacks that reveal his surrogate English mother, Mary Sheridan Thomson, a leader of her Gothic Literary Club who taught English to Brahm by reading him Dracula; and his marriage to Mena, a woman raised among the ever-burning funeral pyres which her father attended. Finally, to villagers, Brahm tells tales drawn from ``the river of stories'' that are often as gruesome as they are ancient. The narrative's endless interlocking stories-within-stories make use of elements as diverse as Hollywood horror films, a trunk full of Bram Stoker's research on vampires and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a ``human bomb.'' In Siegel's explorations of why horror fascinates, Brahm's belief that ``ideas tear people apart; stories bring people together,'' proves correctespecially when the story is as inventive, entertaining and over-the-top as this one. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In addition to its tradition of nonviolence, India has other traditions in which ghosts, vampires, and horrific monsters appear. Siegel (religion, Univ. of Hawaii) uncovered these traditions when he traveled to Banaras to research a book on Sanskrit horror literature. In a fast-paced style, he interweaves his actual experiences with the violent events of 1991 India and the life and work of Bram Kathuwala, an elderly storyteller who specializes in macabre tales. In this re-creation of a storytelling tradition dating from medieval times, magicians, vampires, and flesh-eating devils pop upas does Rajiv Gandhi's assassin. The line between fact and fiction quickly blurs, and the reader soon is absorbed into this spellbinder. A hair-raising book that is not what you'd expect from an academic publisher; recommended for collections on South Asia and/or mysteries.Donald Clay Johnson, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
Booknews
Describes a visit to India in which the author, a scholar, storyteller, and professor of religion at the U. of Hawaii, searches for a legendary Indian storyteller. The author blends his story with tantalizingly recounted tales of horror, ritual, magic, and betrayal, both real and fanciful. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226756899
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Lee Siegel�is professor of religious studies at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of many books, including�Love in a Dead Language,�Who Wrote the Book of Love?, and�Love and the Incredibly Old Man, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2003

    This is a great read

    This book is a fantastic book. Great vivid story telling. Granted it is complex but that doesnt mean it is bad. It is challenging and really if you haven't read books that aren't linear then maybe you won't like this book. But, if you enjoy creative story telling and new and old approches to story telling this book is highly recommended!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2002

    Horrible read

    This was one of the hardest books I've ever had to read. It was required for a college course on Popular Culture. It was torture reading it! It was very disturbing and hard to follow. I would read a page and find myself falling asleep.

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