Age of Anger

A nonfiction book by Pankaj Mishra.

Pankaj Mishra

How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world — from American shooters and ISIS to Donald Trump, from a rise in vengeful nationalism across the world to racism and misogyny on social media? In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra answers our bewilderment by casting his gaze back to the 18th century before leading us to the present.

He shows that as the world became modern, those who were unable to enjoy its promises — of freedom, stability and prosperity — were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world — or were left, or pushed, behind — reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: with intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected that the militants of the 19th century arose — angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy and anarchist terrorists internationally.

Today, just as then, the wide embrace of mass politics and technology and the pursuit of wealth and individualism have cast many more billions adrift in a demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity — with the same terrible results. (From Picador)

Excerpt | Author interview

From the book

In September 1919 the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, accompanied by two thousand Italian mutineers, occupied the Adriatic town of Fiume. The writer and war hero, one of the most famous Europeans of his time, had long wanted to capture all the territories that he believed had always been part of 'Mother Italy.' In 1911 he had zealously supported Italy's invasion of Libya, an expedition whose savagery stoked outrage across the Muslim world. Amid the chaos at the end of the First World War, and with the collapse of the region's previous ruler, D'Annunzio saw a chance to realize his dream of rejuvenating Italian manhood through violence.

From Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra ©2017. Published by Picador.

Author interview

Trumpism. Hindu nationalism. ISIS. People everywhere seem fed up with the status quo, and their anger and intolerance are finding political expression. Pankaj Mishra thinks the globalized anger is the legitimate offspring of the Enlightenment itself.