In This Review

The Missionary and the Libertine: Love and War in East and West
The Missionary and the Libertine: Love and War in East and West
By Ian Buruma
Random House, 2000, 323 pp

In this volume, the journalist and writer Buruma has collected his recent writings on the cultural encounter between East and West. Most are gems of literary criticism on Asian authors, from Yukio Mishima and Nagisa Oshima to N. C. Chaudhuri and V. S. Naipaul. Other chapters offer insightful profiles of political leaders such as Corazon Aquino and Benazir Bhutto and penetrating discussions of the international clash of cultures, particularly between Americans and Japanese. Buruma claims that his study has a central thesis: namely, that the original relationship of the West as the missionary-teacher and the East as the lotus-eating, opium-smoking pleasure-seeker has been reversed. Now the East is the stern lecturer on "Asian values" (which Singaporeans and Malaysians originally learned from their British masters) and the whores of Babylon are in London and New York. Fortunately, his forced theme is not pushed much beyond the introduction. Instead, this clever and thoughtful writer has produced page after page of witty and insightful analysis, displaying his exceptional literary skills and his deep knowledge of Asia's cultural scene.