India Through Foreign Eyes
From Thomas the Apostle to Slumdog Millionaire: how we imagine India, from the author of Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity.
A Strange Kind of Paradise is an exploration of India’s past and present, from the perspective of a foreigner who has lived in India for many years. Sam Miller investigates how the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese, Arabs, Africans, Europeans and Americans – everyone really, except for Indians themselves – came to imagine India.
His account of the engagement between foreigners and India spans the centuries from Alexander the Great to Slumdog Millionaire. It features, among many others, Thomas the Apostle, the Chinese monk Xuanzang, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Vasco da Gama, Babur, Clive of India, several Victorian pornographers, Mark Twain, E. M. Forster, Allen Ginsberg, the Beatles and Steve Jobs. Interspersed between these tales is the story of Sam Miller’s own 25-year-long love affair with India.
The result is a spellbinding, 2,500-year-long journey through Indian history, culture and society, in the company of an author who informs, educates and entertains in equal measure, as he travels in the footsteps of foreign chroniclers, exposes some of their fabulous fantasies and overturns long-held stereotypes about race, identity and migration. At once scholarly and thought-provoking, delightfully eccentric and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is destined to become a much-loved classic.
“Sam Miller has written a wonderfully witty, wise, idiosyncratic and properly hybrid book that achieves the near-impossible. It is at once a touching personal memoir, a droll and discursive travelogue and an erudite work of literary criticism which somehow manages to be, at the same time, a hugely entertaining history of the world's often confused dialogue with South Asia over three thousand years. It is also, almost as an after-thought, a most moving love letter to India.”
William Dalrymple, author of City of Djinns
“[Miller] is a congenial guide. He has a fantastically sharp eye… Amid a torrent of sparkling details, what stands out is Miller's heartfelt love for the country.”
Alex Von Tunzelmann, Evening Standard
“Delightfully eccentric… A very readable account… Miller is the master of the must-read footnote, while matching the travel writer Eric Newby in his acute descriptions of contemporary life in India.”
Victor Mallet, Financial Times
“Laconic and engaging… [An] attractive book.”
David Gilmour, Literary Review
Tarquin Hall, Sunday Times
“Wide-ranging and hugely entertaining.”
Peter Parker, Spectator
“Fresh and forthright… Miller has a fantastically sharp eye for quirky details.”
Alex Von Tunzelman, Scotsman
“Those who know India will find his account sensitively reflects most aspects of that complex land; those who do not know it could hardly do better than to start here.”
John Ure, Country Life
“Far more than a simple narrative of experiences… A fascinating mixture of detailed descriptions spiced by revealing anecdotes, wild untruths and misunderstood behavior.”
The Bay (Swansea)
“Dry, funny and curiously British.”
“It depicts the much-explored India in new and inventive ways, full of fascinating details that leave one hungry for adventures in the land of spices and elephants.”
Lola Peploe, Another Magazine
Christopher Hirst, Independent
“This is a scholarly, readable and wonderfully eccentric homage to India as seen through foreign eyes”
Good Book Guide