Akash Kapur is an Indian-American journalist and author. He is the author of two books, India Becoming (Penguin/Riverhead, 2012) and Better to Have Gone (Scribner, 2021); and the editor of one, Auroville: Dream and Reality (Penguin, 2018). He is the former "Letter from India" columnist for the international New York Times, and has published his work in various magazines and journals around the world. In 2018, Kapur was awarded a Whiting Nonfiction Grant for Better to Have Gone.[1] In 2021, Better to Have Gone was an Amazon bestseller[2] and was named a book of the year by The New York Times,[3] The Wall Street Journal ("Writers' Favorite Books"),[4] CNN,[5] The New Statesman,[6] Airmail,[7] Idler magazine,[8] and Scribd.[9]

Akash Kapur
Born
Nagpur, India
NationalityIndian-American
OccupationAuthor, Journalist
Notable workIndia Becoming, Better to Have Gone
Websitehttp://www.akashkapur.com/

Early life and educationEdit

Kapur was born to an Indian father and American mother and raised near Auroville. He attended boarding school in the United States when he was sixteen.[10] Kapur graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University with a major in Social Anthropology. He has a DPhil in Socio-Legal Studies from Oxford University (Nuffield College), which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He also attended the SAIIER (Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research) school in Auroville, where he grew up, and Phillips Academy, Andover.[11]

CareerEdit

Writing and JournalismEdit

Kapur has published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Atlantic, The Economist, Granta, The New York Times, Outlook, The New Yorker, and Time magazine. He is the former "Letter from India" columnist for the international New York Times. In 2010, his columns for the New York Times received an "Honorable Mention" award by The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA), which praised Kapur's "brilliant accounts of developments in modern India."[12] His writing covers a variety of topics, including utopianism,[13] technology and society,[14] economic development,[15] and tennis.[16] Kapur's travel writing has also appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, and The Atlantic, and includes reports from Romania,[17][18] Poland,[19] Turkey [20] Switzerland,[21] and Thailand.[22]

Kapur has spoken several times on NPR radio in America,[23][24][25] public radio in Australia,[26] and NDTV in India.[27] Kapur speaks fluent French, and has also spoken on several radio and TV programs in France, including on France 24, [28] France Inter,[29] and Radio France Internationale.[30] India Becoming was published in France under the title L'Inde de Demain (2014, Albin Michel).[31]

Kapur is particularly known for his writings on utopianism and the potential and limits of idealism. In his writing and interviews, Kapur has expressed skepticism about the utopian impulse and referred to himself as an "incrementalist." This position has sometimes drawn criticism,[32] but Kapur states that his views are shaped by his own upbringing in a utopian society and his firsthand experience of the extremism to which utopianism often leads.[33] Kapur states that he has spent time studying and traveling in Eastern Europe, and this informs his views of utopianism.[34]

India BecomingEdit

Published in 2012, India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India is an account of change and transformation in India, told through a handful of characters whose lives are followed by the author over time. The book was selected by The New Yorker and The New Republic as a Best Book of 2012;[35][36] by Newsweek as one of its three Must Reads on Modern India;[37] and by The New York Times Book Review as an "Editors' Choice."[38] The book was short listed for the Shakti Bhatt Prize,[39] and an episode from the book was excerpted in The New Yorker magazine.[40] In Time magazine, Pico Iyer wrote that India Becoming was "impressively lucid and searching" and added that, "In his clarity, sympathy and impeccably sculpted prose, Kapur often summons the spirit of V.S. Naipaul."[41] The Financial Times wrote that "the book reads like a novel" and that "Kapur’s skill is to get people talking and to weave their stories into a necessarily messy debate about India’s future."[42]

Auroville: Dream and RealityEdit

Auroville: Dream and Reality (Penguin 2018) is an anthology of writing from the intentional community of Auroville, where Kapur grew up. The book contains numerous archival writings and photos seeking to demystify daily life in the community.[43]

Better to Have GoneEdit

Published in July 2021, Better to Have Gone: Love, Death and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville is part family memoir, part history, and part mediation on the nature of faith, idealism, and the utopian impulse. A mix of genres, it starts as a standard non-fiction narrative, but is increasingly augmented by relevant remarks and reflections of an autobiographical nature. Auroville's uniqueness and spirit, controversial struggles, dramatic events, and current status are presented chronologically, in an easy journalistic style. Portraits of key community figures, including, Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950), Mirra Alfassa [the Mother] (1878–1973), Satprem (1923–2007), and Amrit (born 1943), are drawn. Lives of residents are followed, two well-known Aurovilians: Kapur's wife's mother, Diane Maes (1950–1986), and her partner John Walker (1942–1986). Kapur himself and his wife Auralice Graft (born 1972) are interested participants. Occasional poetic passages contribute nuance and seasoning to the text. John's letters also are quoted many times.[44][45][46]

The book was widely reviewed and covered in the media, including a profile of the author and his wife in the New York Times,[47] two reviews in the New York Times,[48][49] and multiple radio interviews, including with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air.[50] In a cover review for the New York Times Book Review, Amy Waldman wrote: "This is a haunting, heartbreaking story, deeply researched and lucidly told, with an almost painful emotional honesty — the use of present tense weaving a kind of trance. I kept wanting to read “Better to Have Gone” because I found it so gripping; I kept wanting not to read it because I found it so upsetting. The image that came to mind, again and again, was of human lives being dashed against the rocks of rigid belief."[51]

Better to Have Gone was selected as an "Editor's Choice" by the New York Times[52] and was named a book of the year by The New York Times,[3] The Wall Street Journal ("Writers' Favorite Books"),[4] CNN,[53] The New Statesman,[6] Airmail,[7] Idler magazine,[8] and Scribd.[9] The book was an Amazon bestseller[54] and received a Whiting Nonfiction Grant. In its citation, the Whiting prize jury stated: "This book is a moving fusion of memoir, history, and ethnography that will inject new life into these forms. As an investigation into an unsolved mystery, it is compelling; as a meditation on the promise and the limitations of utopianism, it could have global resonance. ... By evoking the everyday in precise detail, Kapur brings utopianism as lived practice to technicolor life. In attempting to locate the shifting border between extremism and idealism, he has written a book rooted in memory but in dialogue with the present day."[55]

Technology and SocietyEdit

Kapur's PhD thesis at Oxford focused on the effects of new technologies on economic and social development. He has frequently written on the intersection of technology and society, including for the Economist [56] and the Wall Street Journal.[57] He has also consulted for a variety of organizations on related topics, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and The Markle Foundation.[58] Kapur is the author of "Internet Governance," published by UNDP, a manual widely used by policymakers in Asia and developing countries. He is a non-residential Senior Fellow at The GovLab,[59] New York University, an organization that explores the intersection of technology and governance, with a particular emphasis on open and shared data, and the potential of "data collaboration."[60] Kapur is also a member of the Academic Council of Krea University, a new university in India that seeks to reimagine liberal arts for the twenty first century.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Akash Kapur". www.whiting.org. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  2. ^ "Better to Have Gone, Akash Kapur". Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  3. ^ a b "100 Notable Books of 2021". The New York Times. 2021-11-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  4. ^ a b Staff, WSJ Books (2021-12-08). "Who Read What: Writers Share Their Favorite Books of 2021". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  5. ^ Leah Dolan. "The best books of 2021, according to global tastemakers". CNN. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  6. ^ a b "Books of the year". New Statesman. 2021-11-17. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  7. ^ a b "AIR MAIL's Best Books of 2021". airmail.news. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  8. ^ a b "Books of the Year". Idler. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  9. ^ a b The Best Books and Audiobooks of 2021 | Scribd.
  10. ^ Ward, Geoffrey C. (25 May 2012). "State of Paradox". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Writings on India, utopia, technology, tennis, travel, literature". Akash Kapur. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  12. ^ "THE SOPA 2010 AWARDS FOR EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE". sopasia.com.
  13. ^ Kapur, Akash (2016-09-26). "The Return of the Utopians". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-09-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Kapur, Akash (2019-11-01). "The Rising Threat of Digital Nationalism". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  15. ^ Kapur, Akash (2009-07-30). "What's Lost When Some Become Rich". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  16. ^ Kapur, Akash (2015-08-29). "Why Roger Federer Hasn't Broken Down". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2021-09-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "Atlantic Abroad - 2000.01.05". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  18. ^ "Atlantic Abroad - 98.09.30". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  19. ^ "Atlantic Abroad - 99.05.12". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  20. ^ "Atlantic Abroad - 98.08.26". Theatlantic.com. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  21. ^ "How to find happiness in Switzerland". Cntraveller.in. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  22. ^ "Chiang Mai state of mind | Condé Nast Traveller India | International | Travel Guide". Cntraveller.in. 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  23. ^ "A Whole New World - Midday on". WNYC. 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  24. ^ Kapur, Akash (2012-03-20). "Akash Kapur: India Becoming - Diane Rehm". Thedianerehmshow.org. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  25. ^ Kapur, Akash (2012-04-22). "India: A Country In The Midst Of Change". NPR. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  26. ^ "India Becoming - Late Night Live - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  27. ^ "Just Books: Reading through Akash Kapur's 'India Becoming'". Ndtv.com. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  28. ^ "Akash Kapur, écrivain indien, auteur de "L'Inde de demain"". France 24. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  29. ^ "Biographie et actualités de Akash Kapur France Inter". Franceinter.fr. 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  30. ^ "2. Quelle Inde pour demain ? - RFI". Rfi.fr. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  31. ^ Albin Michel (2014-05-07). "L'Inde de demain - Akash Kapur". Albin-michel.fr. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  32. ^ "Twilight of the Idylls". www.bookforum.com. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  33. ^ Keating, Joshua (2021-08-23). "An Astonishing True Story of Family Tragedy in a Utopian Community". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  34. ^ "Searching for Utopia, Part 1: The freedoms and failures of an intentional community in India". KCRW. 2021-08-13. Retrieved 2021-09-06.
  35. ^ "Best Books of 2012". The New Yorker. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  36. ^ "New Republic Editor and Writer Picks: Best Books of 2012". New Republic. 26 December 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  37. ^ Verger, Rob (24 September 2012). "Three Must-Reads On Modern India". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  38. ^ "Editors' Choice". The New York Times. 2012-05-31. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  39. ^ "Six books on shortlist for Shakti Bhatt Prize". Rediff. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  40. ^ Kapur, Akash. "The Shandy". The New Yorker.
  41. ^ Iyer, Pico (2012-01-30). "The Indian Disconnect". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  42. ^ Pilling, David (March 11, 2012). ""India Becoming"". www.ft.com. Retrieved 2021-09-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  43. ^ "Auroville: Dream and Reality". Penguin Random House India. Retrieved 2021-09-06.
  44. ^ Akash Kapur, Better To Have Gone. Love, death, and the quest for utopia in Auroville (New York: Scribner 2021). Kapur relies on oral interviews and listed publications (pp. 341-342). "To the best of my abilities, I have recounted events as they actually occurred. There are no invented or composite characters or places" (p.343). The title is taken from a letter to John from his father, quoted at page 249.
  45. ^ Alisha Haridasani Gupta, "When utopia met dystopia, they were there", in The New York Times, July 15, 2021. Accessed 2021-08-16.
  46. ^ Terry Gross, Interview of Kapur per his 2021 book, on NPR's Fresh Air, July 19, 2021. Accessed 2021-08-22.
  47. ^ Gupta, Alisha Haridasani (2021-07-15). "When Utopia Met Dystopia, They Were There". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  48. ^ Waldman, Amy (2021-07-22). "The Promise and Tragedy of a Utopian Community, as Seen by One of Its Own". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  49. ^ Sehgal, Parul (2021-07-20). "Revisiting a Utopian City With Fondness and Fury". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  50. ^ "Growing Up In A Utopian Community : Fresh Air". NPR.org. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  51. ^ Waldman, Amy (2021-07-22). "The Promise and Tragedy of a Utopian Community, as Seen by One of Its Own". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  52. ^ "11 New Books We Recommend This Week". The New York Times. 2021-08-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  53. ^ Leah Dolan. "The best books of 2021, according to global tastemakers". CNN. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  54. ^ "Better to Have Gone, Akash Kapur". Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  55. ^ "Akash Kapur". www.whiting.org. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
  56. ^ Kapur, Akash. "Behind the Digital Divide". The Economist. Retrieved 2021-09-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  57. ^ Kapur, Akash (2019-11-01). "The Rising Threat of Digital Nationalism". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-09-04.
  58. ^ "About". akashkapur.com. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  59. ^ "Team". Thegovlab.org. 2017-09-15. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
  60. ^ "Welcome to the GovLab". Thegovlab.org. Retrieved 2018-01-09.

External linksEdit