Ivan Hall’s new book: “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!” A memoir of his USIS stationing in Afghanistan and East Pakistan. Now available as Amazon Kindle ebook.


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Hi Blog. Debito.org is proud to announce that longtime friend and colleague Dr. Ivan P. Hall, author of the landmark books “Cartels of the Mind” and “Bamboozled: How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan”, has just come out with his latest book.

Exclusively for now on Amazon Kindle is “Happier Islams: Happier US Too!: Afghanistan: Then a Land Still at Peace. East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh): There, an Island of Toleration, 1958-1961“. It is his long-awaited memoir of being stationed as a young man with the USIS as a cultural attache.


Book summary:

Being the Wry Eye Witness Chronicle of Rookie American Cultural Diplomat Ivan P. Hall.

As a fragile peace in Afghanistan breaks down once again in 2016, and as machete murders in broad daylight of progressive intellectuals by radical zealots erode the rare heritage of religious toleration in secularist Bangladesh, Ivan Hall with grace and wry wit brings back to life for us today – in a chronicle penned then and there – the now totally counterintuitive “Happier Islams” he experienced as a young cultural officer with the U.S. Information Service, sent out in 1958-1961 to promote America’s good name in Muslim South Asia.

In Kabul a half century ago Islam though forbiddingly traditional was still politically quiescent. In Dacca, East Pakistan (today’s Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh) a less rigid type of Islam had long accommodated its large Hindu minority. And a “Happier US,” too, as American diplomats worked in lightly guarded embassies, personal safety taken for granted, enjoying an individual and political popularity unthinkable throughout the Muslim world today.

Rare as a memoir by an active embassy officer (rather than scholar or journalist) about a still dictator-run Afghanistan totally at peace in the late 1950s, Hall’s story also offers a unique glimpse into Dacca’s lively America-savvy intelligentsia as of 1960. Illustrated by 200 color photos taken at the time, and updated with geopolitical backgrounders for his two posts then and now, Hall’s narrative also casts a critical eye on the bent of his USIS employer at the height of the Cold War for short-term political advocacy at the expense of long-term cultural ties. By way of contrast his prologue and epilogue limn the heartwarming American genius for private sector “cultural diplomacy he witnessed or took part in during his years “before and after,” in Europe and Japan.

Crawling onto the Great Buddha’s head at Bamian. Mounting the first modern art exhibition in Afghanistan. Picnicking on mountain meadows later pummeled by Soviet gunships. Capturing on camera those remote mood-laden landscapes, those stunning Afghan juxtapositions of verdant and austere. Directing Broadway hits with young Pakistani actors destined to become Foreign Secretaries and top ambassadors of Bangladesh. Flying lessons with the Pakistan Air Force. Living it up in Calcutta. The nagging moral conundrum of that extraordinary artistic sensibility throughout Bengal cheek-by-jowl with material poverty and physical pain never seen before or after on such a vast and poignant scale. Rousing welcomes for his talks on Faulkner or the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign at Muslim Libraries and Assembly Halls. A heady and nostalgic anecdotal romp through worlds long since lost.

Ivan’s Bio reads as follows:

Ivan P. Hall’s passion for straddling cultural gaps dates from his birth on the Protestant campus of the American College of Sofia in Orthodox Bulgaria in 1932. Following his Princeton B.A. in European History in 1954, he served with the U.S. Army as a German language interpreter in military intelligence in Bavaria and as a ‘cellist with the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, took an M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and was stationed with the U.S. Information Service in 1958-1961 as a rookie cultural officer in Afghanistan and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh), including a heady stint at 27 as acting U.S. Cultural Attaché in Kabul.

Turning then to East Asia with a Ph.D. from Harvard in Japanese History, Hall went on to author three books on Japan’s always fascinating if ambivalent intellectual ties with the outside world including a biography of the controversial Meiji westernizer Mori Arinori (1973); Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop, chosen by Business Week as one of its Ten Best Business Books of 1997; and Bamboozled! – How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan and its Implications for Our Future in Asia (2002).

Hall has taught courses in English and Japanese on Modern Japan, Japanese Intellectual History, American Intellectual History, Political Ideology, and International Cultural Relations as a professor at The Gakushuin and visiting professor at Keio and Tsukuba Universities in Japan and as a lecturer at Tokyo University, Yonsei and Renmin Universities in Seoul and Beijing, and the Harvard Summer School. From 1977-1984 he was the Tokyo-based Associate Executive Director of the federally funded Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission for scholarly and artistic exchanges between those two countries. He now makes his home in Thailand.

I urge anyone who is interested in either Ivan’s view of the world, or how the world was quite a different place vis-a-vis the Cold War’s relationship with Islam a mere half-century ago, to download and read “Happier Islams” on Amazon Kindle.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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