Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History

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In the popular imagination, Calcutta is a packed and pestilential sprawl, made notorious by the Black Hole and the works of Mother Teresa. Kipling called it a City of Dreadful Night, and a century later V.S. Naipaul, Gnter Grass and Louis Malle revived its hellish image. This is the place where the West first truly encountered the East, founded in the 1690s by East India Company. It was also home to extraordinary Bengalis such as Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel laureate, and Satyajit Ray, among the geniuses of world cinema. Above all, Calcutta is a city of extremes, where exquisite refinement rubs shoulders with coarse commercialism and savage political violence.