GOD'S DUST by Ian Buruma


A Modern Asian Journey
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In 1986, Buruma (Behind the Mask, 1984) visited Burma, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. His purpose: to examine the extent to which Western-style modernization has influenced Eastern values. His conclusion: These countries are engaged in "an endless search for meaning and national identity" with no clear consensus on a solution. Curiously, Buruma starts in Burma, the one country that has kept Westernization at bay, where Rangoon molders away surrounded by "vast suburbs of brown huts on stilts in slimy water." The West intrudes only in the black market, where TV sets, wristwatches, even pages of old American magazines are snapped up. And so it goes: Thailand is a "sexual supermarket"--and also a land where the king and fundamentalist Buddhists have fostered the resurrection of a serene village culture; Malaysia looks to Islam for cohesion, while its women prance about in miniskirts and high heels; primarily Chinese Singapore comes across as a "perfect suburban paradise," but its officials dither that it will be swamped by Malays and condemn same-sex disco dancing as inimical to procreation; South Korea celebrates its "5000-year-old" civilization with folk festivals in baseball stadiums. Fascinatingly detailed, but confusingly organized and already partially outdated--the downfall of Marcos and the 1988 Burma riots have superseded the text.
Pub Date: June 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0753810891
Page count: 267pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1989


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