26 September, 2020

Mark Twain In Malabar Hill

...and other essays. A pocketful of sahibs thru the ages on the well-trodden India Detour

Mark Twain In Malabar Hill
Decideing what should go into an anthology of foreign writing on India must be a bit like adjudicating India’s holiest cow, or its most colourfully decorated Tata lorry. It would take a long time. And nobody would agree with the selection.

Against that impossible yardstick, Pankaj Mishra’s choices come as a pleasant surprise. Although there are a number of regular suspects like Paul Scott, V.S. Naipaul, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Rudyard Kipling, they are equalled by the unexpected.

I had no idea Paul Bowles, Claude Levi Strauss or Andre Malraux had ever visited India, let alone written about it. Some of the writers, such as Alan Ross, a post-war literary editor in London who spent a humid infancy in Calcutta, and J.R. Ackerley, author of the inter-war Hindoo Holiday, a popular comic memoir of the time, I had never heard of.

With the exception of George Orwell’s unforgettable essay, Shooting an Elephant, and a passage from Kipling’s Kim, Mishra takes care to avoid playing the signature tunes of the well-known authors. It is nice to have...



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