From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia [Hardcover]Pankaj Mishra (Author)
The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe. Foreign soldiers and merchants tore apart the great empires which had once formed the heart of civilization. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover a vast intellectual effort would be required.
Pankaj Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia. Sitting in the midst of ruins of the old empires which now seemed doomed to permanent partition by predatory foreigners, these thinkers created the ideas which in turn were to doom the new empires, and which lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Publication Date: August 2, 2012
From Pankaj Mishra, author of the successful "Temptations of the West" and "Butter Chicken in Ludhiana", comes a provocative account of how China, India and the Muslim World are remaking the world in their own image. The Victorian period, viewed in the West as a time of self-confident progress, was experienced by Asians as a catastrophe. As the British gunned down the last heirs to the Mughal Empire, burned down the Summer Palace in Beijing, or humiliated the bankrupt rulers of the Ottoman Empire, it was clear that for Asia to recover a vast intellectual effort would be required. Pankaj Mishra's fascinating, highly entertaining new book tells the story of a remarkable group of men from across the continent who met the challenge of the West. Incessantly travelling, questioning and agonising, they both hated the West and recognised that an Asian renaissance needed to be fuelled in part by engagement with the enemy. Through many setbacks and wrong turns, a powerful, contradictory and ultimately unstoppable series of ideas were created that now lie behind everything from the Chinese Communist Party to Al Qaeda, from Indian nationalism to the Muslim Brotherhood. Mishra allows the reader to see the events of two centuries anew, through the eyes of the journalists, poets, radicals and charismatics who criss-crossed Europe and Asia and created the ideas which lie behind the powerful Asian nations of the twenty-first century.
Mishra's book isn't a piece of postcolonial critique, or an exploration of contemporary Asian thought on the role of Asia in the world today, but a gripping narrative of the life and thought of several prominent "Asian modernists" who foresaw a different path for their cultures than Westernization or traditionalism. The three characters that the book centers around- Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Liang Qichao, and Rabindranath Tagore- are held up as representatives of the possibility for the development of "parallel modernities" in the Islamic, Confucian/Sinic, and Hindu civilizations, respectively. Around these three characters, many other figures emerge, some famous- Mohandas Gandhi, Sun Yatsen, Mao Zedong- some less well-known outside of their nations, and some who are understood quite differently in their home nations than they are outside (such as Aurobindo Ghose, better known as a spiritual guru and inspiration to new-age writers than an Indian nationalist, and Sayyed Qutb, a man unfairly - in Mishra's eyes - labeled as the intellectual godfather of global jihad.
Meticulous scholarship ... History, as Mishra insists, has been glossed and distorted by the conqueror ... [This] passionate account of the relentless subjugation of Asian empires by European, especially British, imperialism, is provocative, shaming and convincing -- Michael Binyon The Times One can only be thankful for writers like Mishra. From The Ruins Of Empire is erudite, provocative, inspiring and unremittingly complex; a model kind of non-fiction for our disordered days ... May well be seen in years to come as a defining volume of its kind -- Stuart Kelly Scotsman Deeply researched and arrestingly original ... this penetrating and disquieting book should be on the reading list of anybody who wants to understand where we are today -- John Gray Independent From the Ruins of Empire gives eloquent voice to [the] curious, complex intellectual odysseys ... of some of Asia's most educated, thoughtful men -- Julia Lovell Guardian Fascinating ... a rich and genuinely thought-provoking book -- Noel Malcolm Telegraph Superb and ground-breaking. Not just a brilliant history of Asia, but a vital history for Asians -- Mohsin Hamid Lively ... engaging ... From the Ruins of Empire retains the power to instruct and even to shock. It provides us with an exciting glimpse of the vast and still largely unexplored terrain of anti-colonial thought that shaped so much of the post-western world in which we now live -- Mark Mazower Financial Times Brilliant ... Mishra reverses the long gaze of the West upon the East, showing modern history as it has been felt by the majority of the world's population - from Turkey to China. These are the amazing stories of the grandfathers of today's angry Asians. Excellent -- Orhan Pamuk Jolts our historical imagination ... a book of vast and wondrous learning and delightful and surprising associations that will give a new meaning to liberation geography -- Hamid Dabashi (Professor Of Iranian Studies, Columbia University, New York) After Edward Said's masterpiece Orientalism, From the Ruins of Empire offers another bracing view of the history of the modern world. Pankaj Mishra [is] a brilliant author of wide learning ... skillful and captivating narration -- Wang Hui (Professor Of Chinese Intellectual History, Tsinghua University, Beijing) Pankaj Mishra has produced a riveting account that makes new and illuminating connections. He follows the intellectual trail of this contested history with both intelligence and moral clarity. In the end we realise that what we are holding in our hands is not only a deeply entertaining and deeply humane book, but a balance sheet of the nature and mentality of colonisation -- Hisham Matar Highly readable and illuminating ... Mishra's analysis of Muslim reactions is particularly topical --
About the Author
Pankaj Mishra is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludiana, The Romantics, An End to Suffering and Temptations of the West. He writes principally for the Guardian, The New York Times, London Review of Books and New York Review of Books. He lives in London, Shimla and New York.