This book had attained a mythical status for me far before I had ever read it. Possessing a rather hyperactive mind, endlessly going from one project to another (and exercising complete laziness in actually achieving most of them), my Masters friend Onur introduced this book to me after a brief time discussing Japanese imperialism, saying that “there’s actually a book explaining how the Japanese-Russian war of 1905 completely changed the world.” Such an idea was pure catnip – it combined the theoretical promise of decolonised critical theory, actual historical grounding and also a focus on Japan (again, I was studying Japanese imperialism) – but in my usual distraction I never thought to simply order the book and read it.
Life went on, but the lingering need to buy this book continued, especially after seeing this decent Crash Course World History recap of the book. I actually encountered some years later a copy of another book of Mishra’s, Temptations of the West, which as part travel-writing part historical essay was an edifying glimpse into communal politics and the promise and failures of India’s independent state. Worthy reading, but by no means essential. Continue reading “Thoughts on Pankaj Mishra’s ‘From the Ruins of Empire’”