There are still a few of my holiday reads I’ve not yet posted about. One was Amit Chaudhuri’s Calcutta: Two Years in the City, the author’s reflections on moving back to a city he had known well as a child, his conversations with people he met in the streets and in other ways, on Bengali culture (virtually unknown to me save for a couple of Satyajit Ray films and what bits I’ve picked up from reading Amartya Sen, for example in The Argumentative Indian). There is little about the economy in it, although plenty of observation. Chaudhuri writes:
“Will someone in the social sciences write a dissertation on how the rise of individualism in Bengal (in contrast to the West) destroyed rather than energised entrepreneurship, at least on home ground; how, in India, caste and community drive capital and the free market?”
I presume somebody has but don’t know – maybe a reader can give some pointers?
Calcutta: Two Years in the City
I read, too, Orhan Pamuk’s early novel Silent House – out in a new English paperback, although it was his 2nd novel, written in 1983. I’m a huge fan of his work. This one is set at a time 30 years ago of political and social tension between modern, affluent, urban young people and their poor, rural, unsuccessful counterparts – so well worth reading now. Like Snow, it achieves the great imaginative accomplishment of helping the reader completely understand how some people come to hold such different, and unappealing, views.
I thought both books were great – good reads and able to give the reader a real sense of another world, where people think and behave differently. A reminder of the importance of culture to social science, and an antidote to the (sometimes useful) assumption of homo economicus.