Monday, August 26, 2013

Five top books with Western perspectives of Asia

Ian Buruma is the Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College. His books include The China Lover, Murder in Amsterdam, Occidentalism, God's Dust, Behind the Mask, The Wages of Guilt, Bad Elements, Taming the Gods, and the forthcoming Year Zero: A History of 1945.

With Alec Ash of Five Books, Buruma tagged five top books with Western perspectives of Asia, including:
The next country on our tour is Japan, with Donald Richie’s The Inland Sea.

Donald Richie, who died earlier this year, was a great friend and mentor of mine. He first arrived in Japan in 1947, when Japan was still occupied by the United States, and he stayed there, as a journalist and a writer, more or less until his death. He introduced Japanese cinema to the West through his books.

The Inland Sea, which was written in the sixties, is his love poem to Japan as he viewed it – which is quite romantically. It’s about a trip he makes around the Inland Sea, a very beautiful part of Japan filled with small islands. The landscape is extraordinary. He travels there just as Japan is modernising very fast – the cities are transformed as the old Japan disappears, as is happening in China now. So he goes to the part of Japan which to him is the least spoilt. It shows his love for a certain idea of Japan that’s disappearing – which is always the romantic view. Much of literature consists of describing a vanishing or a vanished world.

What are the communities he spends time with?

Many of them are small fishing villages, where people still have a very rural, traditional way of life. Even though he’s describing reality, he infuses it with a kind of poetry. It’s as much a product of his own romantic imagination as it is of life in Japanese fishing villages in the 1960s.
Read about another book Buruma tagged at Five Books.

--Marshal Zeringue