Better To Have Gone

A spellbinding story of love, faith, the search for utopia – and the often devastating consequences of idealism.

Better to Have Gone is a forensic reconstruction of two deaths set against the background of a tropical utopia. It is beautifully written and structured, deeply moving, and realized in wise, thoughtful, chiseled prose. Like The Beach, it tells an extraordinary tale of a paradise lost, and of the dangers of utopian naivety: what happens when, inevitably, dreams collide with harsh reality. Like In Cold Blood, it is that rarity: a genuine nonfiction classic.”
—William Dalrymple, author of The Anarchy and Return of a King

“In this compulsively readable account, Akash Kapur—who grew up in the international community of Auroville in South India, and returned to raise his family there—unravels a mystery whose players are yogis and hippies, Tamil villagers and a disaffected son of the American elite. Kapur’s great achievement is to narrate a personal tragedy with such generosity and insight that it becomes a love story—one that doesn’t shy from the passionate idealism or devastating failures of sixties utopianism.”
—Nell Freudenberger, author of Lost and Wanted and The Newlyweds

“Spellbinding and otherworldly, Better to Have Gone is an exquisite literary achievement. With graceful, luminous prose, Akash Kapur’s intimate account of utopian Auroville is entrancing, devastating, and unforgettable. Above all, this book is a hauntingly beautiful love story, composed by a writer in full command of his craft.”
—Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove

“This gripping, magical, deeply moving book is a story of stubborn, self-sacrificing idealism—both its beauty and its cost. Akash Kapur set out to understand the visionary lives and terrible deaths of his wife’s parents in Auroville, the South Indian utopian community where he and she grew up. The struggle to forge a nobler humanity is often brutal, and the history of Auroville is no exception. But at this moment when we are focused on survival, it is exhilarating to read about a place and time where utopia seemed not just possible but close.”
—Larissa MacFarquhar, New Yorker staff writer and author of Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help

“Akash Kapur’s gripping quest for understanding transports us in the fullest, most satisfying sense. He renders his world with vivid, masterful grace, but he also pulls us into the interior of desires and frailties at a depth that approaches the finest of fiction. Anyone who thirsts for reinvention should read this book as an inspiration—and as a warning.”
—Evan Osnos, Winner of the National Book Award and author of The Age of Ambition and Wildland

“Akash Kapur has written a trenchant, nuanced account of the longing for a perfect world. Working from personal experience and a writer’s profound curiosity, he takes us deep into the heart of an intentional community’s ambitions and failures. This is an important work about the eternal human desire for utopia, and about the dystopia that always lurks within these dreams.”
—Vikram Chandra, author of Sacred Games

“Melding history, biography, and memoir, the author offers a sensitive examination of Auroville’s complex origins, tumultuous evolution, and, not least, ‘the very idea of utopia and the search for perfection.’. . . A discerning portrait of a storied community.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[A] moving, complex combination of history and memoir… Kapur clearly and passionately articulates both his love for Auroville and his deep awareness of its flaws.”
—Booklist

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