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Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyondby Pankaj Mishra
Synopses & Reviews
A vivid, often surprising account of South Asia today by the author of An End to Suffering
In his new book, Pankaj Mishra brings literary authority and political insight to bear on travels that are at once epic and personal. Traveling in the changing cultures of South Asia, Mishra sees the pressures—the temptations—of Western-style modernity and prosperity, and teases out the paradoxes of globalization. A
visit to Allahabad, birthplace of Jawaharlal Nehru, occasions a brief history of the tumultuous post-independence politics Nehru set in motion. In Kashmir, just after the brutal killing of thirtyfive Sikhs, Mishra sees Muslim guerrillas playing with Sikh village children while the media ponder a (largely irrelevant) visit by President Clinton. And in Tibet Mishra exquisitely parses the situation whereby the Chinese government—officially atheist and strongly opposed to a free Tibet—has discovered that Tibetan Buddhism can “be packaged and sold to tourists.”
Temptations of the West is a book concerned with history still in the making—essential reading about a conflicted and rapidly changing region.
"Mishra eloquently expresses his indignation at folly and injustice in these eight travelogues and profiles illuminating the challenge of Western-style globalization in South and Central Asia, where the pull of the West is countered by the politics of nationalism. In 'Allahabad: The Nehrus, the Gandhis, and Democracy,' Mishra weaves bitter commentary on the postcolonial dynasties into his observations of the 'uneven' process of democracy at work during the 2000 elections in the 'decaying' North India city of Allahabad. Mishra draws a complex portrait of successful Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt in 'Bollywood: India Shining,' whom Mishra is prepared to find reprehensible but comes to afford grudging respect. Mishra brings the same eye for character to 'Kashmir: The Cost of Nationalism,' about the brutal 'cycle of retribution' between Muslims and Hindus in the contested region. On meeting a pro-India renegade commander who epitomizes an 'unthinking preference for violence and terror,' Mishra watches the man's 'movie star glamour and... brute power' fall away as the commander demands a 'free hand' in dealing with Muslim guerrillas. These instances of vivid description and personal reaction provide moments of clarity in this dense, well-written book (after An End to Suffering). (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Mishra (a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books) combines travelogue with political and economic reportage in this tour through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, and Nepal. For each place he visits, he turns to a different aspect of the recent experiences of these modernizing countries. In Mumbai he investigates Bollywood and the burgeoning Indian middle class, Ayodhya is discussed as a symbol of extremist Hindu nationalism, Kashmir is the jumping off point for an examination of the Indo-Pakistan conflict, and Pakistan is talked about in light of the relationship between the American Central Intelligence Agency and global jihadism. Also examined are the results of the US war in Afghanistan and the Maoist rebellion in Nepal. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
In Temptations of the West, Pankaj Mishra brings literary authority and political insight to bear on journeys through South Asia, and considers the pressures of Western-style modernity and prosperity on the region. Beginning in India, his examination takes him from the realities of Bollywood stardom, to the history of Jawaharlal Nehru's post-independence politics. In Kashmir, he reports on the brutal massacre of thirty-five Sikhs, and its intriguing local aftermath. And in Tibet, he exquisitely parses the situation whereby the atheist Chinese government has discovered that Tibetan Buddhism can be "packaged and sold to tourists." Temptations of the West is essential reading about a conflicted and rapidly changing region of the world.
In his new book, Mishra brings literary authority and political insight to bear on travels that are at once epic and personal as he sees the pressures of Western-style modernity, prosperity, and globalization on a rapidly changing region.
About the Author
PANKAJ MISHRA was born in north India in 1969. He is the author of An End to Suffering and The Romantics (which won the Los Angeles Times’s Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction) and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.
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