The celebrated British writer-historian William Dalrymple in conversation with Kitaab Interview Editor Debotri Dhar
It is an interview like none other. The celebrated British writer-historian William Dalrymple, author of several critically acclaimed books like In Xanadu, City of Djinns, The Age of Kali, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India and Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, winner of several literary awards, and co-organizer of the wildly successful Jaipur Literature Festival that brings local and global writers to India every year, is in Delhi. In his Mehrauli farmhouse, to be precise, walking his pie-dog “whose favorite thing in the world is to look out for speeding cars and run into them.”
I am in Ohio, in a not-necessarily Wodehousian town called Wooster, where I’m teaching at a liberal arts college this year. Technology is not among my strongest suits and I have failed, hopelessly, in setting up the third party application that would have allowed me to record this interview via Skype. I cannot see him; I can only hear, and we both have distinct accents. Outside it is snowing heavily, humped white rocks everywhere, shivering trees twisted like ribs.
I strain to hear him, across ten thousand miles, over a temperamental telephone line. When I can, I am so enamored of his words and the magic he weaves that I almost forget to take notes. He laughs, and takes it all in his stride. Excerpts:
The world describes you as a writer, a historian, a broadcaster, an art critic, a mystic. How would you describe yourself?
William Dalrymple: Well, writer covers what I do in six letters.