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Temptations of the West by Pankaj Mishra – read and reflect

Written by: Suba Subramanium

Book cover
Temptations of the West by Pankaj Mishra

‘The Romantics’ published in 1999, when Pankaj Mishra was 30, was his first break through on the international literary scene. To tell you a little about this book -……it’s all about a young Brahmin named Samar, who lands up among a group of Western dropouts. The resultant friendship provides Samar with a fresh, more serious look at life and there starts a journey in search of himself. The novel was an international success and has been translated into eleven European languages.

Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India, published 4 years earlier in 1995 was a popular travel book describing the changes taking place in rural India.

Pankaj Mishra was born in 1969, in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh State in north India. Mishra first graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the Allahabad University before completing his MA in English Literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He wrote his first novel when he was only seventeen years old. He was a literary critic for The Indian Review of Books and for the newspaper ‘The Pioneer’.

Mishra contributes book reviews and political essays to The New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times and the New Statesman.

An End to Suffering: the Buddha in the World, published in 2004, is the story of Buddhism woven into Mishra’s travels in India, England, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. Sparing no negatives but presenting the positives is Mishra’s unique style.

Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond – a long title for an outstanding book by Pankaj Mishra In this book Mishra begins his narrative in India, the realities of Bollywood stardom, Jawaharlal Nehru’s post-independence politics, the brutal massacre of thirty-five Sikhs in Kashmir, and its local aftermath all unfold before the reader. Mishra reveals the hypocrisy of corrupt modern- day Indian politicians who live in a self-imposed bubble and ignore the suffering of millions. He gives a vivid description of Bollywood's lightweight movie stars and movie makers whose financial backing comes from criminals.

From India, Mishra moves on to Pakistan and its predicaments. Here Mishra gives a vivid picture of the Western haze engulfing the sub continent. From Pakistan it is over to Tibet, and the readers travel along with the author, where he talks about the atheist Chinese government and how Tibetan Buddhism can be “packaged and sold to tourists.”

"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

Temptations of the West is essential reading about a conflicted and rapidly changing region of the world.

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