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Temptations of the West


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About the Author

Pankaj Mishra is the author of the novel The Romantics, and An End to Suffering. His writing frequently appears in the The New York Review of Books, Granta, and London's Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London and India.


Mishra, a Hindu Indian journalist and novelist (The Romantics), here provides first-person reporting of major turmoil in eight Asian countries in recent years. These are standalone chapters: covered here are the legacy of the Nehrus in Allahabad, the Islam-Hindu conflicts in Ayodhya, the corruption of the Bollywood movie industry, Kashmir and its continuing Muslim-Hindu conflicts, Pakistan for more of the same, and Afghanistan and its continuing quagmire, plus brief chapters summarizing recent events in Nepal and Tibet. The title, however, is both awkward and somewhat misleading. While Western influence-and clandestine and sometimes overt military involvement-may indeed intensify these conflicts, it alone is not to blame for them. Moreover, though Mishra provides competent reporting, he offers no unique insights or analysis and no suggestions for dealing with the region's many problems. What he does offer is a unique perspective: that of a native of the region rather than the usual vantage point of our own journalists who often lack both background and local language skills. A worthwhile read given this region's increasing importance on the world stage, but be braced for discouragement. Suitable for larger public libraries.-Harold M. Otness, formerly with Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Fascinating . . . Pankaj Mishra's travels are interwoven with pungent commentary on modern politics in South Asia. . . . This is not a gentle book, but it is a brave one." --The New York Times Book Review"A set of probing essays about strife and sorrow in volatile South Asia . . . Unusually insightful and eloquent, Mishra deftly deciphers forces political, religious, and economic." --Booklist"An insightful new book that blends journalism, travel writing, memoir, and sharp political commentary." --The Miami Herald

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