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From the Outer World Paperback – April 24, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Oscar Handlin (emeritus, Harvard) and Lillian Handlin (both, Liberty in America, LJ 11/15/94) have brought together 31 travel accounts of 20th-century visitors to the United States from the non-European world. The selections are arranged from the earliest (1924), by Indian Nobelist Sir Rabindranath Tagore, to the latest in the 1990s. Some authors are prominent, such as V.S. Naipaul and Octavio Paz; others are less well known. They visit many different parts of America, from the big cities (New York, Chicago) to the woods of the South. The Israeli Hanoch Bartov, for example, is fascinated with the car culture of Los Angeles. Others are highly critical, such as the Islamic fundamentalist Sayyid Qutb. Many demonstrate the superficial outlook of a traveler with no understanding of the culture of the visited country. These selections make one stop and think how difficult it is for a stranger to grasp what is observed, particularly when not knowing the language of the country. The editors provide an explanatory introduction to the texts. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.?George M. Jenks, Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.


In their thorough and lucid introduction to this collection of travel reports, the Handlins describe perceptions of and attitudes toward the United States in non-European countries. The visitors' observations that constitute the body of the book vary widely in point of origin and point of view. A few are by well-known authors--Rabindranath Tagore, Octavio Paz. Most are by journalists or students or diplomats. These travelers observed racism, economic disparity, poor school systems, and a number of other regrettable but familiar deficiencies. They occasionally found something to admire. What holds a reader's attention, providing occasional surprises and even amusement, is the way a particular writer views his material and the relationship of that view to his personal background. Travelers, whether they want to or not, carry their own countries with them, and some of the countries one encounters in this collection are decidedly engaging. (Phoebe-Lou Adams The Atlantic)

The 'Outer World' of the title is the world outside and apart from the Atlantic Civilization of Europe and the United States, but including Australia and Israel, which the editors define as 'settler societies.' Hitherto, though plenty of attention has been paid to European travellers who have visited the Americas, the impressions and opinions of Outer World travellers have not been much noted. By anthologizing a selection of 'western voyages' by modern travellers from Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America, the Handlins set out, as they put it, to redress the balance somewhat. The [book's] intention--to achieve a sort of defamiliarization by looking at one's country through the eyes of visitors from cultures which do not share some of its basic assumptions--is an admirable one. (Brian R. Harding American Studies)

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