Synopses & Reviews
A surprising, gripping narrative depicting the thinkers whose ideas shaped contemporary China, India, and the Muslim world
A little more than a century ago, as the Japanese navy annihilated the giant Russian one at the Battle of Tsushima, original thinkers across Asia, working independently, sought to frame a distinctly Asian intellectual tradition that would inform and inspire the continents anticipated rise to dominance.
Asian dominance did not come to pass, and those thinkers—Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yatsen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire—are seen as outriders from the main anticolonial tradition. But Pankaj Mishra shows that it was otherwise in this stereotype-shattering book. His enthralling group portrait of like minds scattered across a vast continent makes clear that modern Asias revolt against the West is not the one led by faith-fired terrorists and thwarted peasants but one with deep roots in the work of thinkers who devised a view of life that was neither modern nor antimodern, neither colonialist nor anticolonialist. In broad, deep, dramatic chapters, Mishra tells the stories of these figures, unpacks their philosophies, and reveals their shared goal of a greater Asia. Right now, when the emergence of a greater Asia seems possible as at no previous time in history, From the Ruins of Empire is as necessary as it is timely—a book essential to our understanding of the world and our place in it.
"Indian-British historian and international affairs commentator Mishra (Temptations of the West) looks at how, between about 1870 and 1940, 'some of the most intelligent and sensitive people in the East responded to the encroachments of the West (both physical and intellectual) on their societies.' In particular, he focuses on Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Liang Qichao, intellectuals and political activists. Born in a small town in Iran, al-Afghani was the ultimate Islamic cosmopolitan, living for periods of time in Delhi, Kabul, Istanbul, Cairo, Tehran, London, Moscow, and Paris. Ultimately, al-Afghani anticipated today's Islamists as 'the first thinker to see the concepts Ã¢Â€Â˜Islam' and Ã¢Â€Â˜the West' as violently opposed binaries.' Chinese thinker Liang insightfully criticized the Western imperialism that devastated much of Asia well into the 20th century, favored Japanese authoritarianism with a modernist bent over American democracy (with its racism and corporate domination of the electoral process), and remained a believer in Confucianism to the end of his life. Mishra looks more briefly at a third figure, the Bengali philosopher and writer Rabindranath Tagore, and such individuals as Ho Chi Minh and the pre-Khomeini Iranian Islamist Ali Shariati make 'cameo' appearances. Well-researched and crisply written, this scintillating work will help American readers understand the political and intellectual roots of Islamism and other non- and anti-Western thought in Asia today. Agent: Amanda Urban." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A Financial Times
and The Economist
Best Book of the Year and a New York Times
Book Review Editors Choice
A SURPRISING, GRIPPING NARRATIVE DEPICTING THE THINKERS WHOSE IDEAS SHAPED CONTEMPORARY CHINA, INDIA, AND THE MUSLIM WORLD
A little more than a century ago, independent thinkers across Asia sought to frame a distinct intellectual tradition that would inspire the continents rise to dominance. Yet this did not come to pass, and today those thinkers—Tagore, Gandhi, and later Nehru in India; Liang Qichao and Sun Yat-sen in China; Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Abdurreshi al Ibrahim of the Ottoman Empire—are seen as outsiders within the main anticolonial tradition. But as Pankaj Mishra demonstrates in this enthralling portrait of like minds, Asias revolt against the West is not the one led by faith-fired terrorists and thwarted peasants; rather, it is rooted in the ideas of these once renowned intellectuals. Now, when the ascendency of Asia seems possible as never before, From the Ruins of Empire is as necessary as it is timely—a book indispensable to our understanding of the world and our place in it.
About the Author
Pankaj Mishra was born in India in 1969 and lives in London and Mashobra, India. The author of An End to Suffering (FSG, 2004) and Temptations of the West (FSG, 2006), as well as a novel, The Romantics, he writes for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The Guardian.