February 2, 2011


Dalrymple, William, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India (New York: Knopf, 2010) ("India's population may not be particularly literate--the literacy rate is officially 65 percent, compared with 77 percent in the United States--but it remains surprisingly culturally erudite. As the critic Anthony Lane noted in 2001, in the aftermath of the Islamist attacks on America, the people of New York again and again compared what had happened to them to films or TV: 'It was like Independence Day'; 'It was like Die Hard'; 'No, Die Hard 2.' In contrast, when the great tsunami struck at the end of 2004, Indians were able to reach for a more sustaining narrative than disaster movies: the apocalyptic calamities and world-ending floods that fill the Mahabharata and Indian oral literature in general. As the great American Sanskrit scholar Wendy Doniger put it, 'Myths pick up the pieces where philosophy throws up its hands. The great myths may help survivors to think through this unthinkable catastrophe, to make sense by analogy'." Id. at 88.).