Twilight in Delhi

Ahmed Ali, Author, Priya Joshi, Foreword by
Ahmed Ali, Author, Priya Joshi, Foreword by New Directions Publishing Corporation $14.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1267-0
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-19-577328-6
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As literature, Ali's first novel is reasonably interesting, a sort of awkwardly written, Delhi-based Buddenbrooks . As history and cultural record, though, it is fascinating. Originally published in Britain in 1940 and making its first appearance in the U.S., Twilight concerns the upper-class Muslim merchant Mir Nihal and his extended family. Mir Nihal and his wife were young children during the 1857 Mutiny and the resultant brutality on both sides. Now, in 1911, two of their sons work in government offices and the third one wears English shirts and shoes--a sure sign of Delhi's imminent demise. Even the present crop of anti-British activists are beyond Mir Nihal's ken--``He was one of those who had believed in fighting with naked swords in their hands. The young only agitated.'' Mir Nihal's intense nationalism often seems ahistorical in retrospect--Hindu feeling ran just as strongly against Muslim ``occupiers'' once the hated English left. The real residual power of the mogul golden age is not political (the surviving descendants of Bahadur Shah are all beggars and cripples) but cultural, and Ali's book is first and foremost a tender record of traditional family ceremonies, of kite battles and the old aristocratic hobby of pigeon flying. The cries of the pigeon flyers are the ubi sunt accompanying Ali's portrayal of the parallel decline of Mir Nihal's family and of mogul Delhi. (June)
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