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Ian Buruma is best known for the audacity of his writing, impatience with sloppy thinking, indignation at the inaccurate rendering of history, and immunity to ill-considered criticism. In this collection of essays, as readable today as they were when published in 1996, Buruma’s scope is staggeringly eclectic, his subjects ranging from British explorer Wilfred Thesiger to reflections on the twilight days of empire in Hong Kong and the largely forgotten Dutch novelist, Louis Couperus.

Living in Japan as a young man, Buruma’s ties to the country are strong. It gets a prominent place at the table here, with analysis of topics as diverse as Pearl Harbor and Japanese baseball. Writers with virtually nothing in common except nationality (Yukio Mishima and Banana Yoshimoto feature here), are also re-examined.

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