Information about the author.
Ian Buruma returns to his native land to explore the great dilemma of our time through the story of the brutal murder of controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh at the hands of an Islamic extremist.
It was the emblematic crime of our moment: On a cold November day in Amsterdam, an angry young Muslim man, Mohammed Bouyeri, the son of Moroccan immigrants, shot and killed the celebrated and controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, great-grandnephew of Vincent and iconic European provocateur, for making a movie with the vocally anti-Islam Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali that “blasphemed” Islam. After Bouyeri shot van Gogh, he calmly stood over the body and cut his throat with a curved machete, as if performing a ritual sacrifice, which in a very real sense he was.
The murder horrified quiet, complacent, prosperous Holland, a country that prides itself on being a bastion of tolerance,…[more]
For centuries Westerners have projected fan-tasies of a decadent, voluptuous East in contrast to the puritanism of their own cultures. A Japanese theatrical troupe performing in his native Holland in 1971 exposed the young Ian Buruma to these temptations, and soon he was off to Tokyo, a would-be libertine. The essays collected in The Missionary and the Libertine chronicle Buruma’s sobering discovery that Asians often have equally distorted visions of the West.
In these humorous and enlightening essays, Buruma describes the last days of Hong Kong, the showbiz politics of the Philippines, the chauvinism of the Seoul Olympics, the sinister genius of Lee Kuan Yew, the intricacies of Japanese sexuality, and much more. His portraits of Benazir Bhutto, Imelda Marcos, Satyajit Ray, and Corazón Aquino are classics of the journalist’s art.
Buruma shows that the cultural gap between East and West is not as wide as either missionaries or libertines, in East or West, might think. At home in both worlds, he has provided a splendid counterblast to fashionable theories of clashing civilizations and uniquely Asian values. By stripping away our fantasies, Buruma reveals a world that is all too recognizably human.