Sanjay Subrahmanyam sets a provocative ball rolling by pointing that at some distant point in the past, say about AD 500, the concept of “Indian civilization” had already been perfected. Everything of any importance was in place: social structure, philosophy and obviously the major literary works.
The author demolishes some of the myths which sustain the notion of ‘the wonder that was India’; he demonstrates a region that was always more a crossroads, a rendezvous for concepts, cultures, and worldviews.
Subrahmanyam’s book provides the cosmopolitan perspective of a multilingual world scholar. He is witty, iconoclastic, and polemically entertaining.
He considers elements of Indian history and fiction, South Asian cultural forms, imperialism and imperialists, secularism and Hindu nationalism, travel writing, and the central conceits in Hemingway, Rushdie, Naipaul, and Marquez.
Sanjay Subrahmanyam is an Indian historian who specialises in the early modern period. He holds the Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences at UCLA which he joined in 2004. In 2012, Subrahmanyam won the Infosys Prize for humanities for his “path-breaking contribution to history”. Historian Srinath Raghavan wrote of Subrahmanyam in 2013. He works in over ten European and Asian languages and draws on sources from a dazzling array of archives. Finally, there is his sheer productivity. Subrahmanyam seems to write top-class history faster than most of us can read.