Richard Melson

June 2006

Pankaj Mishra book

Temptations of the West:

How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond

by Pankaj Mishra



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)

From Booklist
Mishra, a literary journalist of conscience, follows his distinctive inquiry into Buddhism, An End to Suffering (2004), with a set of probing essays about strife and sorrow in volatile South Asia. There is as much history as reportage in Mishra's complex, sometimes long-winded, yet always striking analysis of the ongoing, often horrifically violent confrontations between Hindus and Muslims, the privileged and the destitute, entrenched authorities and renegade militants. Mishra does address the West's role in these intractable battles, as his title suggests, but he is primarily concerned with evoking the texture of daily life in the places he visits, and with tracing the insidious influence of hate and corruption. Mishra presents scathing interpretations of the legacy of Indira Gandhi, India's nuclear ambitions, and Hindu nationalism. He is even more intense in his shattering chronicle of the atrocities and paradoxes rife in contested Kashmir. Unusually insightful and eloquent, Mishra deftly deciphers forces political, religious, and economic; vividly profiles remarkable individuals; and, most resonantly, expresses compassion for all who are forced to live in fear. Donna Seaman

Pankaj Mishra book: Temptations of the West

June 23, 2006