Father India: How Encounters With an Ancient Culture Transformed the Modern West - Signed by the Author

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9780060173036: Father India: How Encounters With an Ancient Culture Transformed the Modern West - Signed by the Author

This is a 1st edition copy of the book signed by the author. Over the past hundred years, India has held an enormous fascination for western intellectuals and artists. Father India explores the life-changing influence of the subcontinent on western ideas of modernity by narrating the curious, spellbinding stories of a succession of twentieth-century Europeans and Americans. These major culture figures--including Lord Curzon, Annie Besant, E. M. Forster, Carl Jung, William Butler Yeats, V. S. Naiipaul, Christopher Isherwood, and Martin Luther King Jr., among others--acted out their most secret dreams in India.

Troubled by a vague but persistent discontent, most of the characters portrayed in this book journeyed to India seeking a perspective on their own culture from outside it. The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, for example, unable to find within western intellectual tradition an antidote to fascism, scoured India for a different way to integrate an understanding of evil into the human psyche. Martin Luther King Jr. tried to discover a new basis for American politics, incongruously, in India. And V. S. Naipaul came to search for family roots but ended up inadvertently placing the Enlightenment values of individuality, rationality, and progress in a living crucible there.

Gandhi's answer to the question "Why now?" as he observed one westerner after another come to his own ashram, is telling: The contemporary West had misplaced its soul, and pilgrims to India were on a mission to retrieve it. In the process, their unconscious assumptions about politics, religion, and identity in their own cultures were turned upside-down and laid open to question.

"What do you think of western civilization?" Gandhi was once asked. He answered, "It would be a good idea." This book is about a good idea in India, Father India tells the story of those people--Curzon, Besant, Forster, Naipaul, Isherwood, Mirra Richard, and oddly, Gandhi, too, as well as a chorus of minor characters--who attempted to comprehend or even to protect western civilization through India, and of how their successes and failures returned to the modern West a changed understanding of itself.

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Over the past hundred years, India has held an enormous fascination for western intellectuals and artists. Father India explores the life-changing influence of the subcontinent on western ideas of modernity by narrating the curious, spellbinding stories of a succession of twentieth-century Europeans and Americans. These major culture figures--including Lord Curzon, Annie Besant, E. M. Forster, Carl Jung, William Butler Yeats, V. S. Naiipaul, Christopher Isherwood, and Martin Luther King Jr., among others--acted out their most secret dreams in India.

Troubled by a vague but persistent discontent, most of the characters portrayed in this book journeyed to India seeking a perspective on their own culture from outside it. The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, for example, unable to find within western intellectual tradition an antidote to fascism, scoured India for a different way to integrate an understanding of evil into the human psyche. Martin Luther King Jr. tried to discover a new basis for American politics, incongruously, in India. And V. S. Naipaul came to search for family roots but ended up inadvertently placing the Enlightenment values of individuality, rationality, and progress in a living crucible there.

Gandhi's answer to the question "Why now?" as he observed one westerner after another come to his own ashram, is telling: The contemporary West had misplaced its soul, and pilgrims to India were on a mission to retrieve it. In the process, their unconscious assumptions about politics, religion, and identity in their own cultures were turned upside-down and laid open to question.

"What do you think of western civilization?" Gandhi was once asked. He answered, "It would be a good idea." This book is about a good idea in India, Father India tells the story of those people--Curzon, Besant, Forster, Naipaul, Isherwood, Mirra Richard, and oddly, Gandhi, too, as well as a chorus of minor characters--who attempted to comprehend or even to protect western civilization through India, and of how their successes and failures returned to the modern West a changed understanding of itself.

Review:

When Lord Curzon, E.M. Forster, Mirra Richard, Margaret Bourke-White, and Christopher Isherwood left their familiar surroundings in places like London, Paris, and Washington and made their way to "exotic" India, they used the experience to question "what they had oppressively taken for granted about society or religion or sometimes their very selves." So writes literary journalist Jeffery Paine, who examines the Western encounter with India--and the Indian encounter with the West--to show how both worlds influenced and changed each other. Paine writes at length, for instance, about the English freethinker Annie Besant, who traveled to India in 1893 to study Hinduism; her sometimes botched but politically charged English translation of the Bhagavad Gita helped give rise to the modern New Age movement, and it also persuaded one reader, Mohandas Gandhi, to return to India from his home in London and devote himself to politics.

Elsewhere Paine considers the travels of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who returned from India with new views of the individual psyche and the collective unconscious, and of the Trinidadian novelist V.S. Naipaul, whose "estranged explorations of uprootedness" among Indians at home and abroad won him literary praise and honor. Through such interpreters, Paine writes, India extended the Western perimeter of vision, and it continues to do so today. Of a piece with Jonathan Spence's The Chan's Great Continent, an examination of China's influence on the West, Paine's imaginative journey through India makes for illuminating reading. --Gregory McNamee

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Book Description Harpercollins, 1998. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Father India is composed of several mini biographies of 20th-century Westerners whose lives and thought were radically transformed by their experience of India. As these major figures of the 20th century attempted to comprehend and perfect Western civilization through their visits to India, their unconscious assumptions about social life in their own cultures were turned upside down, returning to the modern West a changed understanding of itself. Following in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman and Edmund Wilson, Father India is an intriguing work of intellectual and cultural history, remarkable for its accessibility and popular appeal. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0060173033

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