A Persian in Peru
December 24, 2006 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I just finished an excellent book-- An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie-- which details an Togolese man's interactions with the Inuit. I was wondering if anyone could recommend other books which are one non-Western culture's take on another. (To me, at least, the more apparently unrelated the two cultures the better.)
posted by bethm to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
It's not a book, but there is a film documentary called "Bosnia Hotel," about a small group of Kenyan Samburu warriors sent to Bosnia as UN peacekeepers. These fellows had a fascinating take on the war in Bosnia, created out of their own rural/village African perspective. The film is basically just interviews with the Sambaru warriors "explaining" the war and their mission. Fascinating stuff.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:32 PM on December 24, 2006

That sounds fascinating... I guess I should expand it to films, radio, etc. too!
posted by bethm at 12:42 PM on December 24, 2006

anything by ryzsard kapuscinski (the soccer war, the emperor, another day of life). he covered latin america and africa for the polish foreign press during the 70s and 80s, when poland was still behind the iron curtain. so, although european, his perspective is definitely not western. it's very interesting.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:41 PM on December 24, 2006

You might be interested in the book Nowhere in Africa (and/or the gorgeous film based on this book). It's the story of a German Jewish family who escaped Hitler by moving to Kenya. It was written by the family's daughter.
posted by allterrainbrain at 5:34 PM on December 24, 2006

(Huh... looks like I read "non-western" as "non-American." :) Anyway, you might still love Nowhere in Africa.)
posted by allterrainbrain at 6:00 PM on December 24, 2006

This is a second vote for Ryszard Kapuscinski, whose writing is compelling, adventures harrowing and insights valuable. I'll recommend Shadow of the Sun in addition to the titles thinkingwoman listed.

Your post doesn't mention if you're only interested in contemporary accounts, but I think Asian history has some fascinating examples of this.

Modern-day Okinawa, for example, was the Ryukyu Kingdom before being invaded by Japan. It was a nation of traders that interacted with all manner of cultures, Asian and otherwise.

George Kerr (an American, so yes, a westerner himself) wrote the standard history of the nation, and collected in the book are a host of reactions to Okinawa's culture by non-western visitors. The primary examples come from China and Japan, but not the only ones. To see the divergent Asian cultures viewed through each others' eyes and through the eyes of traders, missionaries or shipwreck victims that wind up in the Ryukyus is very interesting to me.

It's a history book, not a first-person "my reactions to this culture" narrative, so it might not be what you're looking for. If not, Kapuscinski's your guy for sure.
posted by jeffmshaw at 7:57 PM on December 24, 2006

There's In Light of India - the mexican writer Octavio Paz's impressions of India when he was there serving as ambassador from Mexico. You might argue though that Paz is thoroughly westernized.
posted by vacapinta at 11:42 PM on December 25, 2006

If you don't mind historical books, look up some of the travels of Ibn Battuta. I've only read excerpts, from translators of varying skills, but what I've seen has been fascinating. Project Gutenberg is working on a dual language edition, but I suspect it'll take some time.

I loved that Kpomassie book, too.
posted by QIbHom at 12:04 PM on December 26, 2006

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