THE TEARS OF THE WHITE MAN: Compassion as Contempt by Pascal Bruckner

THE TEARS OF THE WHITE MAN: Compassion as Contempt

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Polemic by a French expert on world hunger, telling Westerners to stop feeling guilty about the Third World, because it isn't our fault, and they aren't such nice guys anyway. The rhetoric is lively, to say the least, with chapter headings ranging from ""Gustave Flaubert"" to ""Third World as Turd World."" Throughout Bruckner's debate, the tone of vehement insensitivity to possible ether points of view is reminiscent of the most egoistic American political writers. But Bruckner, as a novelist, has much greater verbal resources than most political hacks. Unfortunately, most of this is lost in an inept translation: in most political books, a humdrum translation may suffice, but Bruckner is so dependent on a musketeer-like verbal flourish that only the best French translators should bare attempted this job. There is a peculiarly French opinion in this book that if a problem is stated in a witty enough fashion, then the author's opinion is incontestably right, the matter solved. This may be the case for quarrels in the comer cafÉ but not so in print. Still, the reader must admire Bruckner's ability to sum up very concisely matters by no means simple. His footnotes are a riot; they appear at the end of the book like a host who sticks his head out a window to further harangue departing guests. Bruckner shows much savvy even on topics off his main subject, including Israeli politics and bogus Indian religions. Unfortunately, the basic message of the book essentially adds up to ""I'm OK, You're OK,"" and most of the world would agree that this is severely wrong. A vigorous verbal apertif on Third World matters, then, that survives a poor translation.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan