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.
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)
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
June 10, 2007
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