William Dalrymple is probably the best travel writer of his generation, both in his ability to evoke a sense of time and place, and his skill for shedding light on history in an engaging and accessible way. In contrast to his first book, the brilliant ‘In Xanadu’, Dalrymple focuses less on his own experiences and more on unpeeling the multiple and intriguing layers of Delhi’s history. This is not to say he is an invisible presence in the book, but that his personal account acts more as an access point for historical discovery than a narrative in itself – Paul Theroux this is not.
‘A Year in Delhi’ finds Dalrymple digging deeper and deeper into Delhi’s history throughout his trip, unravelling the various epochs of the city, from the British Raj to the roots of The Mahabharata. At once amusing and erudite, Dalrymple also has a gift for sketching the surreal characters he meets along the way, from Sufi mystics and taxi drivers to his eccentric landlady. This must be the definitive travel companion for a trip to this fascinating and ancient city.