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, a Hindu, has been accused in his native India of “pandering to white pro-Muslim audiences in the West”—a notion that, he points out, was “optimistic” even before September 11th. In this acute survey of South and Central Asia (including Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Tibet), he reports on how countries are facing the crisis of modernization, hobbled by political corruption, poverty, and the abiding hatred of one tribe for another. Particularly illuminating is his chapter on Nepal, which, despite a veneer of regular elections, has long been mired in a battle between monarchy and Communism, both anachronisms in the West. Mishra cautions us not to underestimate “the rage and despair of people who, arriving late in the modern world, have known its primary ideology, democracy, only as another delusion.”