The Tears of the White Man: Compassion as Contempt

In This Review

The Tears of the White Man: Compassion as Contempt

By Pascal Bruckner
Free Press, 1986
244 pp. $17.95
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A diatribe against the ideologues of Western guilt, against pious compassion with and exaltation of Third World countries. A French journalist excoriates left-wing positions, which he once held himself: "My criticism of 'a sense of guilt that ran amok' is above all a criticism of myself." His treatment of a major topic-the rise of a guilty conscience in Europe-turns into a polemic, sometimes against straw men, but Bruckner pleads as well for meeting the "other," for accepting distance as a condition of friendship or understanding. A special preface for the American audience by the translator, William R. Beer, is marred by all manner of errors and oversimplifications. Altogether, a book that by being contemptuous itself misses its own considerable potential.

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