New Books:
Asia


 


Penny Edwards, Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation, 1860-1945.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.  ISBN: 9780824829230.  List Price: $62.00 (Cloth)

This strikingly original study of Cambodian nationalism brings to life eight turbulent decades of cultural change and sheds new light on the colonial ancestry of Pol Pot’s murderous dystopia. Penny Edwards recreates the intellectual milieux and cultural traffic linking Europe and empire, interweaving analysis of key movements and ideas in the French Protectorate of Cambodge with contemporary developments in the Métropole. From the naturalist Henri Mouhot’s expedition to Angkor in 1860 to the nationalist Son Ngoc Thanh’s short-lived premiership in 1945, this history of ideas tracks the talented Cambodian and French men and women who shaped the contours of the modern Khmer nation. Their visions and ambitions played out within a shifting landscape of Angkorean temples, Parisian museums, Khmer printing presses, world’s fairs, Buddhist monasteries, and Cambodian youth hostels. This is cross-cultural history at its best.

With its fresh take on the dynamics of colonialism and nationalism, Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation will become essential reading for scholars of history, politics, and society in Southeast Asia. Edwards’ nuanced analysis of Buddhism and her consideration of Angkor’s emergence as a national monument will be of particular interest to students of Asian and European religion, museology, heritage studies, and art history. As a highly readable guide to Cambodia’s recent past, it will also appeal to specialists in modern French history, cultural studies, and colonialism, as well as readers with a general interest in Cambodia.


Dennis Washburn, Translating Mount Fuji: Modern Japanese Fiction and the Ethics of Identity.  New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.  ISBN: 023113892X.  List Price: $40.00 (Cloth)

Dennis Washburn traces the changing character of Japanese national identity in the works of six major authors.  By focusing on certain interconnected themes, Washburn illuminates the contradictory desires of a nation trapped between emulating the West and preserving the traditions of Asia.

Washburn begins with Ueda's Ugetsu monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain) and its preoccupation with the distant past, a sense of loss, and the connection between values and identity. He then considers the use of narrative realism and the metaphor of translation in Soseki's Sanshiro; the relationship between ideology and selfhood in Ogai's Seinen; Yokomitsu Riichi's attempt to synthesize the national and the cosmopolitan; Ooka Shohei's post-World War II representations of the ethical and spiritual crises confronting his age; and Mishima's innovative play with the aesthetics of the inauthentic and the artistry of kitsch.

Washburn's brilliant analysis teases out common themes concerning the illustration ofmoral and aesthetic values, the crucial role of autonomy and authenticity in defining notions of culture, the impact of cultural translation on ideas of nation and subjectivity, the ethics of identity, and the hybrid quality of modern Japanese society. He pinpoints the persistent anxiety that influenced these authors' writings, a struggle to translate rhetorical forms of Western literature while preserving elements of the pre-Meiji tradition.