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The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encountersby Richard Bernstein
Synopses & Reviews
A rich and seductive narrative of the powerful erotic pull the East has always had for the West—a pervasive yet often ignored aspect of their long historical relationship—and a deep exploration of the intimate connection between sex and power.
Richard Bernstein defines the East widely—northern Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Islands—and frames it as a place where sexual pleasure was not commonly associated with sin, as it was in the West, and where a different sexual culture offered the Western men who came as conquerers and traders thrilling but morally ambiguous opportunities that were mostly unavailable at home. Bernstein maps this erotic history through a chronology of notable personalities. Here are some of Europe’s greatest literary personalities and explorers: Marco Polo, writing on the harem of Kublai Khan; Gustave Flaubert, describing his dalliances with Egyptian prostitutes (and the diseases he picked up along the way); and Richard Francis Burton, adventurer, lothario, anthropologist—and translator of The Arabian Nights.
Here also are those figures less well-known but with stories no less captivating or surprising: Europeans whose “temporary marriages” to Japanese women might have inspired Puccini’s Madama Butterfly; rare visitors to the boudoirs of Chinese emperors in the Forbidden City; American G.I.s and journalists in Vietnam discovering the sexual emoluments of postcolonial power; men attracted to the sex bazaars of yesterday’s North Africa and the Thailand of today. And throughout, Bernstein explores the lives of those women who suffered for or profited from the fantasies of Western men.
A remarkable work of history: as unexpected as it is lucid, and as provocative as it is brilliantly illuminating.
Richard Bernstein is a columnist for the International Herald Tribune and a contributor to The New York Times. He has served as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe for Time and the Times, and is the
An erotic history of Western men's long-standing obsession with the sexual culture of the East, including Marco Polo's writings on Kublai Khan's harem, Gustave Flaubert's dalliances with Egyptian prostitutes, to American G.I.s who settled with local women in Vietnam.
In this wide-ranging history, Richard Bernstein explores the connection between sex and power as it has played out between Eastern cultures and the Western explorers, merchants, and conquerors who have visitedthem. This illuminating book describes the historical and ongoing encounter between these travelers and the morally ambiguous opportunities they found in foreign lands. Bernstein's narrative teems withreal figures, from Marco Polo and his investigation into the harem of Kublai Khan; the nineteenth-century American missionary Isabella Thoburn and her efforts to stamp out the sinfulness ofthe Mughal culture of India; Gustave Flaubert and his dalliances with Egyptian prostitutes; to modern-day sex tourists in Southeast Asia, as well as the women that they both exploit and enrich. Provocative andinsightful, The East, The West, and Sex is a lucid look at a pervasive and yet mostly ignored subject.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
\Richard Bernstein is a columnist for the International Herald Tribune and a contributor to The New York Times. He has served as a foreign correspondent in Asia and Europe for Time and the Times, and is the author of six previous books, including Fragile Glory: A Portrait of France and the French, a New York Times Best Book of the Year, and Out of the Blue:A Narrativeof September 11, 2001, from Jihad to Ground Zero, named by The Boston Globe as one of the seven best books of 2002. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Bohemians at home and abroad — The whole world as the white man's brothel — Yangsook — That cad Ludovico — "Just a page in the book of your life" — The harem in the mind of the west — The fantasy comes true — The eternal dream of Cleopatra — Enlightenment from India — Colonialism and sex — A secret life in Algiers and Paris — The Malacca blues — The eastern paradox — What happened to the harem? — The inescapable courtesy of Japan — The butterfly complex — "I souvenir : you boom-boom" — A room of her own — Thinking of nana, or noi, or am — The yearning of the wanderer's heart — Judgments.
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