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Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond
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Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  226 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by Picador (first published June 1st 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 665)
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Rajesh Kurup
My feelings on "Temptations of the West" are very mixed. To start, the book has little do with the title, or subtitle "How to be Modern.." Mishra writes mainly of the history of the subcontinent rather than its future. His journalistic tendencies come out a lot throughout the book. Each chapter reads more like distinct articles rather than as chapters of a single unified book. However, whether they are distinct articles or unifying chapters, his editor could have been stepped in more. Particular ...more
Tariq Mahmood
The book is a journalist's experiences in his native India, where he focuses on politics and Kashmir, in Pakistan where he explores a jihadism, in Nepal where Maoism rebellion is covered and in Tibet where Dalai Llama and the Tibetan struggle is touched upon. I really enjoyed his objective and impartial depiction of Hindu fundamentalism in India and the distinction made with Islamic fundamentalism which was pretty poignant. I also enjoyed the Pakistani and a Afghani analysis. The Pakistani areas ...more
Faisal  Buzdar
An extremely insightful book, providing an illuminating account of Pankaj Mishra's travels in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Tibet. Mishra takes us to cities and remote regions in these countries, uniquely experiencing modernity, development and changes wrought by capitalism. Meeting politicians, social activists, religious fanatics, traders, intellectuals and ordinary men and women, Mishra elucidates local history, politics, conflict and gains made by the powerful and the privileged. T ...more
Manu Prasad
A commentary on life in the subcontinent, that vividly portrays issues that pertain to the region- from the university politics of Uttar Pradesh to the lanes of Bollywood and from Ram Janmabhoomi to the plight of Kashmir, and thats only one country.

It also shows the role of Pakistan in the cold war, its dealings with the US , the mujahideen, communists and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Touches on Nepal and the Maoists vs Monarchy tussle. Most importantly it also throws light on how re
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I picked this one up for its interesting subtitle — How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond — but it turned out to be a little misleading. Most of the time, Mishra is complaining about modernity, by which he mostly seems to mean contact with the West and the side effects of same (e.g. "the profound modernity of religious nationalism").

Mishra doesn't really completely convince me that the region's problems stem exclusively from modernity as he defines is, but this book gave me a lo
Wow! This is totally my kind of nonfiction! The author, an Indian-educated journalist, lends his personal understanding of South Asian culture, language, and history to current events in these countries. The first chapter was my favorite, especially the strange juxtaposition of a Brahman immersed in Edmund Wilson with a Princeton undergrad smoking hookah in late-80s Benares. Throughout the book, I was disturbed by the accounts of corruption and violence that rampages in nations pushed into moder ...more
Mishra is a very good writer and this book is in many ways illuminating. It discusses some aspects of contemporary life, the stresses of contemporary life in South Asia. I had hoped for more of the sort of analysis the title seems to promise: an explicit examination of the strains put on the people in these nations by the demands of modernity and the modern market culture. Instead, the book is largely narrative (not in itself a bad thing) with each chapter following a regular pattern - exemplary ...more
Mostly states the obvious and still gets it wrong at times. Superficial observations and questionable conclusions galore. Completely avoidable... and I guess same goes for his other books as well.
Betsy D
Mishra gives a fine review of the recent, tragic mostly, history of these areas, including Kashmir.
Many cultural and historical factors contributed to their tragedies, but so did the CIA, using them as pawns in their "game" with the USSR. This makes me very sad. Of course, we don't know how the history would have proceeded without the CIA.
He tells a number of individuals' stories, to illustrate how history played out for a variety of people.
Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond contains treatises on the author’s travels through India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Tibet. Pankaj Mishra provides honest, fearless reports from the areas he visits. The incidents and conditions that he reports are hardly covered or purposely censored in the mainstream media. Reports from Kashmir, Pakistan’s play in Afghanistan and the political reasons on events and the governments responses, are well covered. He also ...more
Extraordinarily good reporting. Most Indians look to the mainstream media for news. They lack the perspective that Pankaj Mishra brings to light. In his other South Asian potrayals, the writer is very sympathetic of his various subjects. He writes keeping in mind the history and culture of the place and its peoples.
David Mason
Well written but really more of a collection of essays. I didn't check - were they all previously published somewhere? Not that it matters.

My sense is nothing really new here. I thought the chapter on Tibet, in particular, was weak and cursory.

I was hoping for a more thoughtful discussion, and perhaps some synthesis, but instead found a collection of essays more along the lines of "difficulties of modernization" (or - because I hate the word "modernization", perhaps recent history showing some
Dec 06, 2008 ina rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: india farers
First part of the book on India is excellent - the author clearly is at home with his material and has a "new historian" critical approach mixed with personal narrative. The remaining parts of the book are about Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tibet and are more textbook than personal narrative. It is clear that these parts of the book have been more difficult to write for the author, and I think one could find better histories than this. But all in all a good and interesting book.
Frits Brouwer
Quite brilliantly insightful, in particular with regards to India.
Interesting sections on Nepal and Tibet, but overall it's hard to take his narrative history style seriously because he offers no hard evidence, just personal observations. For the larger sections in the book covering India including Bollywood, the BJP, Kashmir and Nehru's legacy, I did not feel that he added much to existing works on the same topics. His latest book From the Ruins of Empire sounds promising.
The book made me realize how ignorant I am of the deeper context of many of the things - violence in Kashmir, Hindu-Muslim bloodshed - I was constantly exposed to in the papers and on TV while attending boarding school in India. Makes me question the value of much of the `learning' that goes on in classrooms all over South Asia. As Bob Marley once memorably said, "If I were educated I'd be a damn fool."
The author is a brahmin journalist who shares his own experience with the history of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He goes from the violence against the various ethnicities and religions to the not-so-golden world of Bollywood. It’s more interesting in the journalistic parts while it’s a little too generic when he talks about history.
Sue Pit
This book regards the current situation and recent history of Indian, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmire, Nepal and Tibet. While the writer does not write in a manner that is entirely reader friendly (odd repetitions and lay out is such one can lose focus at times), it does provide the read with an excellent understanding of that area and why things may be as they are currently.
Rashad Raoufi
its an easy read, very insightful at times but its slightly confusing as we dont know if its an objective view or personal account but it does not diminish the authors skill in examining the soth asian socities, especially his view of the rise of hindu nationalinsim. its good summer reading and i laughed out loud at the cow urine lab!

May 28, 2010 Stephanie marked it as to-read
Shelves: india
TORONTO LIBRARY REVIEW: Karaoke bars and video game parlours stand next to Buddhist temples in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama. Officially atheist and opposed to a free Tibet, Chinese officials are opening Tibet up to tourism. This collection of short travel essays explores evolving cultures in South and Central Asia.
This is, from start to finish, a fantastic book. Intelligent, honest, and sharply written, it strikes a perfect balance between skepticism towards those in power with deep compassion for the ordinary people the powerful cause to suffer. I'm not sure why it took me so long to finish considering how much I enjoyed it.
A series of essays which are more personal experiences of an Asian Indian journalist. Well-written and each essay contains intriguing and/or lesser-known facts, e.g., Western involvement in so many of these countries and involvement that made the countries worse. The style is a bit chatty and wandering.
Aug 16, 2007 Jessi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in South Asia
Mishra writes a humanized version of a very complicated history (or, more accurately, histories). He places himself, his family, friends and people in general within this history, telling stories that illustrate the dynamics of the sub-continent. He's a great writer, and incredibly intelligent.
a fascinating introduction to a lot of the cultural currents at play in south asia, showing the interface between "traditional" (though i use that term with hearty reservation) cultures and the forces of modernity. mishra is a really great writer, blending interview with journalism with reflection.
Cheryl Zaleski
The title is misleading...I thought I was going to read something social/cultural, but in the tiny print in one of the book reviews,it is about "modern politics [and economics] in South Asia. A bit of a tiring and confusing read for this foreigner...
Thank you Christopher for this book for Christomas. I learned a lot from it about India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal. Even about Tibet. This book gave me insights in the culture and historical conflicts through journalistic essays on each country.
Another superbly written book by Mr. Mishra. His skeptical eye refuses to be seduced by the excesses that have resulted from economic liberalization. His steady eye delves deep into the crevices that catalyzes the worst of the subcontinent.
Jecca Namakkal
Excellent introduction to contemporary Indian politics, and the complicated relationships between post-colonial East and West. Also, a pleasure to read. Check out Mishra's articles in the New Yorker. Top-notch.
Dec 08, 2007 Molly rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pakaj's parents
It reads like he needed to get some extra mileage out of some pieces he'd already published. He seems to think Buddhism is helpful in solving political problems; he should visit Sri Lanka.
Thought provoking. Not a typical travel book at all-- author writes objectively about political climate and social issues rather than about where he goes, what he eats and how he "feels."
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Pankaj Mishra (पंकज मिश्रा) is a noted Indian essayist and novelist.

In 1992, Mishra moved to Mashobra, a Himalayan village, where he began to contribute literary essays and reviews to The Indian Review of Books, The India Magazine, and the newspaper The Pioneer. His first book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995), was a travelogue that described the social and cultural c
More about Pankaj Mishra...
The Romantics From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India India in Mind

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