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Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond Paperback – 6 Apr 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (6 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330434683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330434683
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 730,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'His focus on daily laugh, and honesty and about his own
prejudices, give even his angriest verdicts subtlety and specificity.' -- Daily Telegraph

'Perspicacious, thorough and unsentimental, Pankaj Mishra is an
engaging guide to India.' -- Observer

'This is a beautifully written and brave book.' -- Guardian

About the Author

Pankaj Mishra was born in North India, in 1969. He is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India; a novel, The Romantics, which won the LA Times Art Seidenbaum award for first fiction; and a highly acclaimed book about the Buddha, An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World. Mishra writes for several publications, including the New York Review of Books, the New Statesman, Granta, the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. R. on 20 April 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked this book because I was looking for something to tell me about the way life is changing on the Indian sub-continent. I was expecting a report about economic success and increasing materialism. What I got was much a deeper, darker, far more interesting but worrying political and economic report surrounding tales of everyday life.

It's rare good fortune to stumble over a book that tells you things you never knew you didn't know; Pankaj Mishra explores and explains details about life in the East which are truly shocking to someone like me who thinks she's reasonably well-informed about world affairs. This book has entirely changed my views on India. We hear and read in the West about India's marvellous economic revolution and how we all ought to be doing business with the forward thinking, intelligent people there. Who wants to know about all the other people who aren't feeling the benefit, who are becoming poorer, deprived of even the basics for a bearable life, living in fear of violence?

This is a book about individuals' lives, people that Mishra helps us to understand and like or dislike, in whom we become fascinated. Educated people who can't even dream of finding a job, corrupt politicians and their dedicated counterparts, aspiring film stars, bereaved families. It's a book about people and their backgrounds, the political and economic backdrops against which their difficult lives are played out. I wonder what has happened to them?

I've been urging people to read this book, especially people who do business with India. This is not an easy nor a comfortable read, but it is a rewarding one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
I picked this up because I wanted to know more about India and Pakistan in particular, not being very knowledgable on the subject. I bought it on a whim and I'm very glad I did.

On the positive: This is a brilliantly written work, the author is both a journalist and a novelist and it shows. The prose is fluid and a joy to read. Thge author is very well informed with regard to India. The chapters on Indian politics, Hindu nationalism and Bollywood are by turns funny, moving and informative. The author interviews many 'ordinary' people and low-level politicians, such that one gets a very real sense of how people live their lives and the everyday struggles they face. At it's best this book demystifies the 'Orient'. In particular, one comes to see that India is not some strange, foreign land, but a very real place, not nearly so different from the West as I had presumed in my ignorance. The author has a very good sense of both 'East' and 'West' and displays his knowledge with skill, to the benefit of the reader.

Negatives: Some of the chapters are perhaps a little too long, and such they tend to drag a little. Once the author leaves his native India, the chapters become a little unfocused. While still well written, they tend to meander and it's difficult to see what point he's trying to make. The chapter on Pakistan only briefly discusses that nation and instead focuses on Afghanistan, which is disappointing and confusing, as the following chapter is solely dedicated to Afghanistan. Also the chapter on Tibet seemed rather fleeting and shallow, as though it were tacked on to fill up the rest of the book.

That said this book is well worth reading and very informative for someone who, like myself, doesn't have much knowledge 'India, Pakistan and Beyond'.
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By m. dosa on 30 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
musings of a journalists life and returns to india,nepal,tibet etc some really interesting chapters bollywood with its interviews with directors and aspirers.the chapter on kashmir is interesting but theres really nothing new here also it did,nt conjure up the smells and dust of india its chapters on nepal and tibet a bit formula
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Parvati P. on 9 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
With such a plethora of books about `India Shining' I wondered whether Pankaj Mishra could come up with any new insights on the changes in that country. I had read his earlier book "Butter Chicken In Ludhiana" which, although flawed, provided a much-needed small-town view of India. But Butter Chicken was a travel book. His new book "Temptations of the West" seemed at first a much more ambitious work. The cover blurb leads us to believe it will be an analytical look, perhaps with deeper philosophical musing about the effects of India's modernisation on its people. It does not do this.

Mishra once again visits small-town India (eg. Benares, Allahabad) but he barely gets beneath the surface. His personal encounters with people appear banal and hardly shed light on their predicament or even hopes and fears in a changing India. Rather than using Benares as a mirror of what is going on in the small towns in the 21st century, Mishra never gets round to telling us why Benares is of particular interest, other than that he was once a student there.

Elsewhere Mishra strays into the political realm, but without the bite or insight of the many, many outstanding political columnists writing in India's newspapers or magazines. His second-hand views (he is unable to interview any RSS people directly) about the Hindu nationalists seem dated (views that were widely held before the BJP came to power) and do not tell us how the organisation changed once in government, or how other people's views of the RSS have changed. This is a mediocre attempt at political journalism.

The book is really a collection of essays which are not connected with each other. This would not matter if they were excellent in themselves. Unfortunately they come across as inadequately researched.
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