AT £17.99 YOU get three books here for the price of one. The first is a concise history of the Buddha, of the various schools of Buddhism, and of Western and Indian commentators on the faith. The second outlines the author's disappointment with the world he lives in and with almost all the authors he once admired (most of them Western), who cannot guide the world out of its agony and cruelty. And the third tells us something of a lonely, alienated young Indian, never at ease in his own country, except for-a few years spent in a remote mountain village. Disillusioned with the West he once admired, he seems to have arrived at some kind of understanding, and perhaps peace, by realising that the Buddha held out 'the possibility of knowledge as well as redemption - the awareness, suddenly liberating, with which I finally began to write about the Buddha'.
Pankaj Mishra - who has travelled widely in India and written a book about its smaller towns (Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India) and also a novel, The Romantics - has an unusual ability to get people to say things that they might ordinarily keep to themselves.