Subcontinental Drift

From The New York Times:

‘Temptations of the West,’ by Pankaj Mishra. During the Soviet Union’s long, doomed attempt to subdue Afghanistan, Soviet helicopters dropped countless butterfly bombs, brightly colored devices looking much like toys that Afghan children picked up when they fluttered to earth. Then they exploded. That grim image might be a leitmotif for Pankaj Mishra’s fascinating, angry book about the impact of modernity on India, Pakistan, Nepal, AfghanistaMish190n and Tibet. “Temptations of the West” tells of the complex, often violent struggle of ancient societies to define themselves in the face of cultural, political and religious intrusions from outside — the gaudy butterflies that seem so pretty and then blow up.

The book’s title is somewhat misleading, and its subtitle even more so. This is no mere attack on the vacuities of Western pop culture transplanted to the East, nor yet another condemnation of the legacy of colonialism. Instead, Mishra painstakingly picks apart the complex, contradictory relationship between South Asia and the West. He lives in both India and England, so cannot claim to be personally immune to the temptations of Western life. Certainly his book offers none of the prescriptions and bromides of a “how to” manual. Part autobiography, part travelogue, part journalism, it is written not from a political or polemical position but from that of a small-town, upper-caste, lower-middle-class Indian with a taste for Western literature.

More here.