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Wednesday, Dec 08, 2021
Outlook.com
Review

Borobudur Stonework

The book is as detailed and thorough as the various temples, stupas and mon­astic precints it covers.

Borobudur Stonework
Borobudur Stonework
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

One of the truly unfortunate misconceptions of architectural book publishing relies on the misguided belief that the coffee-table format is itself an indication of good architecture. Books on monuments, forts, palaces, castles have to be lavish colour spreads of enormous wide-angled photographs that leave the reader—or rather the vie­wer—groping in breathless ecstasy. Such books generally rely on photography for their message, which are often accompanied by scant and irrelevant text. Meant mainly for the foreign tourist, or the housewife matching book-cover to sofa, text doesn’t matter. The literary value of such books is suspect; more so, since their monetary value is usually in dollars. The cheap paperback, on the other hand, is meant for subjects like low-cost housing or the typology of rural latrines—ideas of such routine utility, they have no shelf value—and is ruthlessly discarded. By contrast, these books tend to be more informative, and—unlike their more well-to-do cousins in the drawing room—do not require to be insured against theft, fire or coffee stains.

But sometimes, there appears something that gives the big pictorial spread real value. Vikram Lall’s The Golden Lands is one such brilliant endeavour. A serious arrangement of valuable documentary material structured in a way that gives equal weight to text, drawing and photograph. As the historical text unfolds, the reader is drawn into the Buddhist archaeology of places as diverse—and connected—as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries of the Far East.

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