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Celebrating Europe

An Asian Journey

Asad-ul Iqbal Latif

Publication Year: 2012

Europe's mythical origins lie in Zeus' abduction of the Asian princess Europa. Down the real centuries, Asia has played a crucial role in the making of Europe - as an object of Orientalist fantasy and colonial desire, but also of the spread of the liberating values and humane letters associated with the continent. In this book, a lifelong admirer of Europe casts a critical yet loving eye on the continent to ask what it means to him. The book revolves around a series of personal encounters. These range from following his father to Cambridge, and meeting two Bengali lovers in Calcutta who cherish Eros with classical Greek purity, to watching his wife recover in a Polish hospital that lavishes care on her for almost free. These encounters are intertwined with passionately argued essays on the Holocaust, the Soviet ideal and the Berlin Wall as keenly-contested sites of the European imagination. A chapter on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's historical novel, The Leopard, combines literary and political analysis to peer into the heart of Italy, while an essay on champagne in France discovers the France in champagne. An analysis of secularism in the post-9/11 world defends one of the abiding legacies of Europe. Finally, a chapter on postmodern Europe upholds the European Union as perhaps the most exciting international project on offer today. The literary flair of this scholarly book captures the vividness of the intellectual engagement between Asia and Europe.

Published by: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

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pp. ix-xii

Although there is a tendency among some analysts to dismiss Europe as a “has-been”, the world in which we live is still shaped by ideas emanating from Europe. This is why it is important for us to augment our knowledge of Europe’s contribution to civilization. ...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. xiii-

The sections in this book on my visit to France are drawn from an article, “French heaven on earth”, that was originally published in The Sunday Times on 8 August 2004. ...

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Introduction: Europe

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pp. 1-7

The world is in large part a European invention. Europe has created, named, and shaped every historical era, from the classical world and the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance, the Reformation, and their culmination in the modern age of the nation-state, and now to the postmodern lease of life promised by the supranationalism of the European Union.1 ...

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1. Europe Abroad

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pp. 8-22

Sheikh Abdullah was a prosperous landowner and trader in the Hooghly district of undivided Bengal. He was a devout Muslim. In the course of his business pursuits during the British Raj, he once had to meet an Englishman. What would happen if he had to shake the pork-eater’s hand, he wondered darkly. ...

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2. Gentiles

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pp. 23-35

The Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem is purgatory. One goes there to pay for other people’s sins, but comes out purified all the same. One emerges a Jew. The photographic exhibits soon overwhelm the senses; one grows immune to the tragic residues of suffering because suffering is depicted on such an epic scale and, therefore, diffused. ...

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3. The Berlin Wall

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pp. 36-49

Jan Kott, the Polish theatre critic and theoretician who witnessed both Nazi terror and Stalinist repression, is remembered best for his daring book, Shakespeare Our Contemporary.1 In his preface to the book, Peter Brook, the British director, describes how he first met Kott. ...

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4. Soviets of the Mind

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pp. 50-57

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, two elderly Indians were drowning their sorrows at a streetside tea stall in Calcutta. One of them was despondent and wondered how such a calamity could occur and question the inevitability of socialism. ...

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5. The Secular Soul

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pp. 58-77

The Quai d’Orsay invited a dozen Asian journalists to savour the feel of France in the summer of 2004. On a free day during the trip, my tourist map of Paris led me to to the Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Many religious observances, whatever the faith, are almost funereal in nature. ...

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6. The Leopard's Italy

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pp. 78-91

On a conducted tour of Italy undertaken on the cheap in the summer of 2004, my family and I travelled by coach. We generally stayed in little hotels tucked into city outskirts, where people and places could not be bothered to put on a show for tourists. ...

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7. England

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pp. 92-108

Presidency College shares a playing field with Hare School, my father’s school. Like the school, the establishment of the college in 1817 had opened an early chapter of the Bengal Renaissance. An extraordinary quickening of the senses accompanied every class or tutorial with our teachers at Presidency, most of whom had been students of the college themselves. ...

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8. Champagne France

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pp. 109-113

The programme for the trip to France in 2004 included an “optional” visit to the House of Moët & Chandon in the Champagne region. As the highway from Paris branched off into Epernay after two hours on the bus, rolling acres of vineyards and fairy-tale villages captured the view. ...

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9. Two Benagli Greeks

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pp. 114-129

Rajkumar’s and Rajkumari’s paths crossed when they entered Presidency College, Calcutta, Rajkumari to read History, and Rajkumar, Bengali. Rajkumar did not restrict his exertions to the classroom; in fact, he did some reading lying where Rajkumari could study him between her classes. ...

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10. The Polish Hospital

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pp. 130-139

Midway through a fifteen-day conducted tour of Eastern Europe in 2009, my wife, Mala, slipped in the snow in the Slovakian town of Banska Bysteria and fractured her left foot. The shock destroyed a kind of reverie that had enveloped me. ...

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11. Postmodern Europe

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pp. 140-158

In a powerful critique of where the West stands today, John Gray avers that the Enlightenment project has ended, and has been replaced by a sense of value-pluralism that frees non-Western societies from being accountable to the Western telos. ...

Bibliography

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pp. 159-166

Index

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pp. 167-174

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About the Author

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pp. 175-

Asad-ul Iqbal Latif is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. His areas of research include Singapore’s political and strategic relations with China, India, and the United States. ...


E-ISBN-13: 9789814311519
Print-ISBN-13: 9789814311502

Page Count: 175
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1