Kathmandu is the greatest city of the Himalaya; a unique survival of cultural practices that died out in India a thousand years ago. It is a carnival of sexual licence and hypocrisy, a jewel of world art, a hotbed of communist revolution, a paradigm of failed democracy, a case study in bungled Western intervention, and an environmental catastrophe.
Closed to the outside world until 1951 and trapped in a medieval time warp, Kathmandu’s rapid modernization is an extreme version of what is happening in many traditional societies. The many layers of the city’s development are reflected in the successive generations of its gods and goddesses, witches and ghosts; the comforts of caste; the ethos of aristocracy and kingship; and the lately destabilizing spirits of consumer aspiration, individuality, egalitarianism, communism and democracy.
Kathmandu follows the author’s story through a decade in the city, and unravels the city’s history through successive reinventions of itself. Erudite, entertaining and accessible, it is the fascinating chronicle of a unique city.