Simon Winchester's Calcutta

Overview

Calcutta is a city in a state of permanent surprise, where amazement is around every crumbling corner, and astonishment lurks over every rickshaw-puller's shoulder. It is a city that never ceases to shock those who pass through, and it is also a city that manages to delight and enthrall those who are stalwart enough to stay and brave enough to make an effort to look, and to see.

Best-selling writer Simon Winchester explores his love-hate relationship with Calcutta, a city that ...

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Overview

Calcutta is a city in a state of permanent surprise, where amazement is around every crumbling corner, and astonishment lurks over every rickshaw-puller's shoulder. It is a city that never ceases to shock those who pass through, and it is also a city that manages to delight and enthrall those who are stalwart enough to stay and brave enough to make an effort to look, and to see.

Best-selling writer Simon Winchester explores his love-hate relationship with Calcutta, a city that provokes intense reactions in all who visit. Collaborating with his son Rupert, Simon muses on his time spent in Calcutta, reflecting on his experiences, preconceptions and own individual fascination with the city.

The Winchesters' personal essays are presented with a selection of wide-ranging extracts penned by other visitors to this surprising city. The result is a personal view of one of the world's most resonant destinations that also acts as an essential introduction to the wealth of writing on the subject.

Includes extracts by V. S. Naipaul, Paul Theroux, Rudyard Kipling, Geoffrey Moorhouse, Rabindranath Tagore, N. C. Chaudhuri, Günter Grass, Dominique Lapierre, James Morris, Mark Twain and Vikram Seth.

Simon Winchester's Calcutta provides a rare insight into the inspiration writers gain from their love for a special place.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Simon Winchester (The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary) and son Rupert combine literary forces in Lonely Planet's inaugural title in its new "Writer and Place" travel literature series, which will focus on the favorite destinations of well-known writers. Based in India between 1977 and 1979, Winchester found Calcutta a unique blend of East and West and a "city that manages to delight ...those who are stalwart enough to stay." Consisting of three essays by the authors, one of which is a brief history of the city, the book also presents extracts from journal entries, poems, novels, and travel narratives about Calcutta from both writers Western and Calcutta-born-e.g., Paul Theroux, Rudyard Kipling, and Rabindranath Tagore. The strong, concise history and extracts provide the traveler with historical perspective; the emphasis on the era of the British Raj make it most suitable for those interested in colonial rather than contemporary Calcutta.-Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781740595872
  • Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Series: Writer and Place Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.02 (w) x 7.68 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Winchester
Simon Winchester
Journalist Simon Winchester had already published a list of travel and historical titles before a footnote in a book about dictionary-making led him to his tale of a prolific contributor to the gargantuan Oxford English Dictionary. That book, The Professor and the Madman, became a surprise hit -- and made Winchester a leading practitioner of what The New York Times calls “cocktail-party science.”

Biography

One of the leading practitioners of the offbeat, narrative nonfiction genre The New York Times affectionately calls "cocktail-party science," Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford, worked on offshore oil rigs, and traveled extensively before settling into a writing career. For twenty years, he worked as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian, augmenting his income by writing articles and well-written but little-read travel books. Then, an obscure footnote in a book he was reading for sheer recreation sparked the idea of a lifetime.

The book in question was Jonathon Green's Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made, and the footnote read, "Readers will of course be familiar with the story of W.C. Minor, the convicted, deranged, American lunatic murderer, contributor to the OED." Immediately, Winchester knew he had stumbled on a real story, one filled with drama, intrigue, and human interest. Published in 1998, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Oxford English Dictionary was an overnight success, garnering rave reviews on both sides of the pond, and remained on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list for more than a year.

Fueled by curiosity, passion, and a journalist's instinct for what makes "good copy," Winchester has gone on to explore the obscure, arcane, and idiosyncratic in blockbusters like The Map that Changed the World, Krakatoa, and The Man Who Loved China. Coincidentally, his subjects have placed him squarely in the forefront of the new wave of nonfiction so popular at the start of the 21st century. In an interview with Atlantic Monthly, Winchester explained the phenomenon thusly: ""It shows, I think, that there is deep, deep down -- but underserved for a long time -- an eagerness for real stories, real narratives, about rich and interesting things. We -- writers, editors -- just ignored this, by passed this. Now we are tapping into it again."

Good To Know

Winchester once spent three months looking at whirlpools on assignment for Smithsonian magazine.

He once wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times to correct a factual error in an article about where the millennium would first hit land on the morning of Jan. 1, 2000. (It was the island of Tafahi, not the coral atoll Kirabati.)

He reportedly loves the words "butterfly" and "dawn."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York; Massachusetts; Scotland
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 28, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      M.A., St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, 1966
    2. Website:

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