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Ian Buruma, 13 May 1993

Gower: The Autobiography 
by David Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... Canterbury), and Certainly not mediocre. But neither were Dennis Compton, Freddy Trueman or Ian Botham, or indeed Graham Gooch, and they were (are) all very much Players. In his autobiography, breezily ghost-written by Martin Johnson, the joker of the Independent’s back page, Gower plays up his Cavalier image for all its worth. And he makes no bones ...

Hamlet and the Bicycle

Ian Buruma, 31 March 1988

The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilisation 
by Julia Meech-Pekarik.
Weatherhill, 259 pp., £27.50, October 1987, 0 8348 0209 0
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... The Meiji period: 44 years (1868-1912) of ‘Civilisation and Enlightenment’, of steam-trains, long-nosed barbarians, crystal chandeliers, fancy-dress balls and wars fought in Hungarian cavalry uniforms. There is something highly theatrical about the ‘modernisation’ of Japan, which began with a dazzling (words like ‘dazzling’ always come to mind when discussing Meiji) crash-course in Western culture and ended in a defensive re-evaluation of traditions that would never be the same again ...

Dr Ishii gets away with it

Ian Buruma, 9 June 1994

Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-45, and the American Cover-Up 
by Sheldon Harris.
Routledge, 297 pp., £25, December 1993, 0 415 09105 5
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... The story of Lieutenant-General Ishii Shiro and his Unit 731 should stand as a warning – not so much against human wickedness, about which little can be done, but against gullibility. Unlike his German colleague Dr Mengele, who was a bit of a hack, Dr Ishii was a respected scholar in his field – which was military medicine, or more specifically, biological warfare ...

Soul to Soul

Ian Buruma, 19 February 1987

The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness 
by Peter Dale.
Croom Helm, 233 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 7099 0899 7
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... Is the Japanese Prime Minister, Nakasone Yasuhiro, a racist? Or must we read his recent remarks about the superior intelligence of a monoracial society like Japan, and unlike the United States, in context, as his defenders claim? If so, in what context? The physical context was a seminar for the Japanese equivalent of the Young Conservatives. Nakasone’s statements were clearly not meant for foreign ears ...


Ian Buruma, 9 March 1995

The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War 
by Lynn Nicholas.
Macmillan, 498 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 333 62652 4
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... Three episodes, three wars: The Allied armies took possession of Tientsin and Peking and the adjoining districts. At first many of the soldiers of the composite body acted in a brutal and licentious way. Men, women and children were outraged and murdered and cities looted ... Some foreigners came to the captured districts for loot: a most disgraceful episode ...

Uniquely Horrible

Michael Howard, 8 September 1994

The Wages of Guilt 
by Ian Buruma.
Cape, 330 pp., £17.99, June 1994, 0 224 03138 4
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... relentlessly any of their fellow-countrymen tactless enough to argue that they were anything else. Ian Buruma has written a penetrating comparative study of the way in which the Germans and the Japanese have come to terms with the record of their conduct in the Second World War. There are interesting similarities and even more interesting differences. For ...

Japanese Power

Richard Bowring, 14 June 1990

God’s Dust: A Modern Asian Journey 
by Ian Buruma.
Cape, 267 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 224 02493 0
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The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol V: The 19th Century 
edited by Marius Jansen.
Cambridge, 828 pp., £60, October 1989, 0 521 22356 3
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The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. VI: The 20th Century 
edited by Peter Duus.
Cambridge, 866 pp., £60, June 1989, 0 521 22357 1
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... job of interpretation properly were it not for the published work of academics. One such man is Ian Buruma. Educated in the Netherlands but writing in English, Buruma is known for his work on the Far Eastern Economic Review and in the New York Times, and as the author of A Japanese Mirror, a racy book on the Japanese ...

What’s going on?

Peter Mair: The Netherlands, 14 December 2006

Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance 
by Ian Buruma.
Atlantic, 278 pp., £12.99, October 2006, 1 84354 319 2
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... got Theo. The heart stands still.’ It was, and remains, a shocking and horrible moment. Ian Buruma was born in The Hague in 1951, close to where Van Gogh grew up, and emigrated from the Netherlands in 1975, moving on to spend time in Japan and the East, as well as in the US and Britain. He is the sort of intelligent, calm and reasonable ...

Making faces

Philip Horne, 9 May 1991

The Grimace 
by Nicholas Salaman.
Grafton, 256 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 246 13770 3
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Playing the game 
by Ian Buruma.
Cape, 234 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 224 02758 1
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The Music of Chance 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 217 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 9780571161577
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... and left it as a sharp earful of what Paul Auster calls ‘the music of chance’.Salaman, Buruma and Auster are all connoisseurs of the incongruous connection, all adept stringers-along of the reader into tantalisingly incomplete networks of significance. Salaman is a practised psychological construction-man, a builder-up of considered trifles into ...

On and off the High Road

Tim Parks: Anglomania in Europe, 27 May 1999

Voltaire's Coconuts 
by Ian Buruma.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £18.99, March 1999, 0 297 64312 6
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... The idea behind these changes is one that was dear to Voltaire’s heart and inspires the title of Ian Buruma’s book: the notion that those institutions which have proved successful in one country, in this case Britain, might, like coconuts, be transplanted elsewhere with the same positive results. Dogged by a combination of chronically unstable ...


John Lanchester, 9 May 1991

The Redundancy of Courage 
by Timothy Mo.
Chatto, 408 pp., £13.99, April 1990, 0 7011 3748 7
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... Ishiguro’s Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day, with its samurai butler. According to Ian Buruma, there is a Japanese folk-tale motif in which a character finds and makes use of a magic mask only to discover, when the time comes to remove it, that the mask has become stuck to his face. That is the plot of Ishiguro’s book. One can imagine ...

A Simpler, More Physical Kind of Empathy

Lorna Sage: Haruki Murakami, 30 September 1999

South of the Border, West of the Sun 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill, 187 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 1 86046 594 3
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Harvill, 609 pp., £12, May 1998, 9781860464706
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... for traces and echoes of the kind of violence that came out of the closet in the war. Talking to Ian Buruma in the New Yorker, Murakami said that when he was a boy he heard his father (whom he doesn’t get on with) reveal something terrible about his experience as a soldier in China, but he couldn’t remember later what it was: ‘I don’t want to ...

Reality B

Christopher Tayler: Haruki Murakami’s ‘1Q84’, 15 December 2011

1Q84: Book 1 and Book 2 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin.
Harvill Secker, 623 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 1 84655 407 0
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1Q84: Book 3 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel.
Harvill Secker, 364 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 1 84655 405 6
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... as an international writer too. From early on he found many readers across East Asia, which Ian Buruma – who profiled him for the New Yorker in 1996 – attributes to large numbers of lonely city dwellers leading atomised, post-traditional lives. ‘He told me that he couldn’t write about his native roots,’ ...

Number One Passport

Julian Loose, 22 October 1992

Rising Sun 
by Michael Crichton.
Century, 364 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 0 7126 5320 1
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Off Centre: Power and Culture Relations between Japan and the United States 
by Masao Miyoshi.
Harvard, 289 pp., £22.95, December 1992, 0 674 63175 7
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Underground in Japan 
by Rey Ventura.
Cape, 204 pp., £7.99, April 1992, 0 224 03550 9
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... who is as guilty as Mishima of exhibiting an exotic, export-oriented Japan; and the critic Ian Buruma, whose quick wit and knowledge of Japanese ‘cannot compensate for his glibness and prejudgment, which barely conceal his fundamental ignorance and contempt’. Miyoshi’s own judgment is sometimes as suspect as it is severe. It seems ...

Promenade Dora-Bruder

Adam Shatz: Patrick Modiano, 22 September 2016

So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood 
by Patrick Modiano, translated by Euan Cameron.
MacLehose, 160 pp., £8.99, September 2016, 978 0 85705 499 9
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... decision as much as a political one. As a child of 1945 – Year Zero of the postwar period, as Ian Buruma has called it – Modiano was insisting on the unbridgeable distance between himself and his protagonist. The apparent naturalism of the film’s style, too, was quietly defamiliarising, particularly in the last scenes, in which Lucien and France ...

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