Capital -- The Eruption of Delhi by Rana Dasgupta, Penguin Press '14, $28.95, 466 pages, ASIN #1594204470. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations, except for two b&w maps.
Globally, it's conventional wisdom that wealth has poured into India during the past generation. In Capital, Rana Dasgupta writes that Delhi has led the parade in that regard, qualifying the city as hosting an "eruption." But it hasn't all been pretty:
"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 glossy stores nestled among the new highways, customers paid for global luxury with bags of cash. But the transformation was stern, abupt 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 a brief Q&A with India Ink, author Rana Dasgupta discusses the writing of his book:
Q. There's a point in the book where you write about how people are not curious about those who belong to different classes and castes. Is Delhi becoming an insular city?
A. In some sense, all big cities are insular. They have their own drama which animates conversation and people who know how the city works get pleasure out of sharing that with other people. So cities are inevitably self-involved to some extent because they're very dramatic -- there's a lot of texture and depth.
Q. In the book, you write about a lot of things that are common to urban India -- among them, the corporatization of medical health care, collapsing marriages and the aspiration to get very rich. Is Delhi, then, the ultimate pan-Indian city of the 21st century?
A. I think I'm sort of careful to point out those things that are unique to Delhi -- particularly, the relationship it has with Partition and with being a capital. Those things are very important to its culture, which is why it's different from Bombay and Calcutta, and I think that the fact that's the seat of federal politics explains nearly everything about what it's become, which is obviously not the case for other cities. The issues of political corruption, of immense car ownership of a new middle class are common to all.
Author Rana Dasgupta won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book for his debut novel, Solo. Capital is his first work of nonfiction. Born in England in 1971, he now lives in Delhi.
Edgar Degas -- Drawings and Pastels by Christopher Lloyd, Getty Publications '14 on glossy stock, $39.95, 320 pages, 250 color illustrations, ASIN #1606063278. Index, picture credits, bibliography.
"Edgar Degas was one of the outstanding draughtsmen of the nineteenth century," writes author Christopher Lloyd at the outset of this remarkable book. Continuing and perhaps with notice to the reader that he has not produced an objective study of the artist, he states, "More than that, he falls into that rare category of artists -- Leonardo da Vinci, Durer, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau -- of whom it can be said that every mark they make on paper is worthy of consideration.
From the front cover:
"As Christopher Lloyd demonstrates in this illuinating study, the sheer volume and variety of the artist's works on paper, in addition to the singular importance Degas accorded the act of drawing itself, allows his stylistic evolution to be recounted through a examination of his drawings and pastels alone. Following a broadly chronological approach while setting Degas within the culture context of his times.
"Including his relationship with Impressionism, Lloyd combines a general account of the artist's life with a close scrutiny of various subject areas, from the iconic images of dancers -- which form over half of Degas's oeuvre -- to nudes, laundresses, milliners, and the less well-known racehorse and landscape drawings.
"The entire career is presented: the early study of Ingres and Delacroix, the conventional youthful drawings, and the historical works of the early 1860s, followed by the shift to the modern subjects and stylistic concerns that would occupy Degas for the rest of his career."
Author Christopher Lloyd worked at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from 1968 to 1988, combining curaorial duties with teaching and was surveyor of The Queen's Pictures in the British Royal Collection from 1988 to 2005. He has curated numerous exhibitions worldwide and published extensively on Western art.
The Romanov Sisters -- The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport, St. Martin's Press '14, stated First U.S. Edition, First Printing. $27.99, 492 pages, ASIN #1250020204. Index, bibliography, notes, grouping of b&w glossy images.
From the dust jacket:
"Helen Rappaport brings the four daughters of the last tsar to life in their own words, illuminating the opulence of their doomed world and their courage as they faced a terrible end.
"They were the Princess Dianas of their day -- perhaps the most photographed and talked about royals in the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian grand duchesses -- Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia Romanova -- were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore, and their privileged lifestyle.
"Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. From a treasure trove of diaries and letters written by the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive, and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it."
Author Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University and specializes in Imperial Russian history and the reign of Queen Victoria. She lives in Dorset.