City of Djinns

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City of ghost
Author William Dalrymple
Illustrator Olivia Fraser
Language English
Subject Travel
Publisher Penguin Books.
Publication date
Preceded by In Xanadu: A Quest
Followed by From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium

City of Djinns (1994) is a travelogue by William Dalrymple about the historical capital of India, Delhi. It is his second book, and culminated as a result of his six-year stay in New Delhi.

City of Djinns was the first product of Dalrymple’s love affair with India, centring on Delhi, a city with ‘a bottomless seam of stories’. Shaped more like a novel than a travel book,[1] he and his wife encounter a teeming cast of characters: his Sikh landlady, taxi drivers, customs officials, and British survivors of the Raj,[2] as well as whirling dervishes and eunuch dancers (‘a strange mix of piety and bawdiness’). Dalrymple describes ancient ruins[3] and the experience of living in the modern city: he goes in search of the history behind the epic stories of the Mahabharata. Still more seriously, he finds evidence of the city’s violent past and present day - the 1857 mutiny against British rule; the Partition massacres in 1947; and the riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

The book followed his established style of historical digressions, tied in with contemporary events and a multitude of anecdotes.


The book has now been made into a play by Rahul Dasinnur Pulkeshi of Delhi-based Dreamtheatre [4] . Dalrymple is played by Bollywood and stage actor Tom Alter, with Zohra Sehgal playing the role of Nora Nicholson, a British national who prefers to stay in India after it achieves Independence.



Dalrymple, William (1994). City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. Flamingo. ISBN 0-00-637595-2