"In essays that bespeak a thoroughly cosmopolitan sensibility, Githa Hariharan not only takes us on illuminating tours through cities rich in history, but gives a voice to urban people from all over the world—Kashmir, Palestine, Delhi—trying to live with basic human dignity under circumstances of dire repression or crushing poverty."
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What does a medieval city in South India have in common with Washington, D.C.? How do people in Kashmir imagine the freedom they long for? To whom does Delhi, city of grand monuments and hidden slums, actually belong? And what makes a city, or any place, home? In ten intricately carved essays, renowned author Githa Hariharan tackles these questions and takes readers on an eye-opening journey across time and place, exploring the history, landscape, and people that have shaped the world’s most fascinating and fraught cities.
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s playful and powerful writing about journeys and cities, Almost Home combines memory, cultural criticism, and history to sculpt fascinating, layered stories about the places around the world—from Delhi, Mumbai, and Kashmir to Palestine, Algeria, and eleventh-century Córdoba, from Tokyo to New York and Washington. In narrating the lives of these place’s vanquished and marginalized, she plumbs the depths of colonization and nation-building, poverty and war, the fight for human rights and the day-to-day business of survival.
***“A fascinating book that transcends conventional genre divisions and combines several elements: of memoir, travelogue, history, philosophy and fiction. What in a journalist’s hands might just have been reportage turns in the hands of this creative writer into a well-conceived, layered narrative, a work of excellent prose... Recorded historical facts and unrecorded legends get intertwined to produce a unique text, whose texture we will never know comes from where, from the idiom that varies from the intensely lyrical to the factually objective or from a heady mixture of aptly-quoted passages of poetry and ably narrated stories or again from the dizzying passages from one period and one place to another period and another place.”
“Spunky… It is both Hariharan’s singular, home-grown cosmopolitanism and her mellow perspective as a distinguished Indian novelist that inform the book’s story, of shifting ideas of time and place.... The book’s ten journeys crisscross the world confidently.… [Hariharan] is capable of wonderful moments of hilarity... With this, her eighth book, she reminds us of the considerable skill she has yet to fully tap into, like the sea, ‘home, or almost home.’ ”
“…presents a new kind of travel writing that is intellectually adventurous but never detached, couched in personal experience but deeply engaged in the world, inviting the reader to make surprising connections with her own sense of home.”
“Hariharan’s stories should be required reading… Each essay will add depth to your understanding of the complicated, nuanced relationship between daily life and history, no matter what city or country you call home.”
Chicago Review of Books
“...a beautifully crafted memoir about finding one's place in a global and ever-changing world...In ten captivating essays, Hariharan explores her life as a global citizen, defined equally by her roots as much as her current address, and what it means to find and embrace her own place in an ancient yet transient world.”
“A creative collection of essays by an Indian woman combining her perspectives of diverse places, bits of their history, and the power relations that have shaped them... Githa Hariharan is an author who is grounded in her Indian heritage yet intensely aware of what is happening around the entire globe... Almost Home is one of the increasingly frequent books that do not fit in our traditional categories. It contains fact and fiction, memoirs and travel writing, history and social/political analysis. Despite its unusual structure, it is easy to read and provides an enlarged understanding of places around the global and the forces that affect us all.”
Me, You, and Books
“Essays on identity, place, and the pervasiveness of the past in the present, by a global literary citizen...never just travel writing or political analysis—that nonetheless seems to map new territory of its own. Hariharan employs abundant creative imagination as she conjures the centuries past that have shaped the present in which she finds herself. At some times and places, she envisions fields of battle, at others there are battles between lovers. Her aim is to come to terms not only with a place, but with herself in that place, a self who has never been defined by any one place: ‘I have lived all my life in a city, but if someone asked me, quite simply, “So which city are you from?” I wouldn’t be able to answer. Or I would have too many answers….Or I could say: Anycity, composite city of visible cities, remembered cities, imagined cities.’