Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan, where he studied history, Chinese literature, and Japanese cinema.

In 1970s Tokyo, he acted in Kara Juro’s Jokyo Gekijo and participated in Maro Akaji’s butoh dancing company Dairakudakan, followed by a career in documentary filmmaking and photography. In the 1980s, he worked as a journalist, and spent much of his early writing career travelling and reporting from all over Asia.

Buruma now writes about a broad range of political and cultural subjects for major publications, most frequently for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian, La Repubblica, NRC Handelsblad.

He was Cultural Editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review, Hong Kong (1983-86) and Foreign Editor of The Spectator, London (1990-91), and has been a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington D.C., St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and Remarque Institute, NYU.

He has delivered lectures at various academic and cultural institutions world-wide, including Oxford, Princeton, and Harvard universities. He is currently Paul W. Williams Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

Ian Buruma was awarded the 2008 international Erasmus Prize for making “an especially important contribution to culture, society or social science in Europe.”

He was voted as one of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals by the Foreign Policy/Prospect magazines in 2008, and in 2010.

Ian Buruma was awarded the 2008 Shorenstein Journalism Award, an annual award which “honors a journalist not only for a distinguished body of work, but also for the particular way that work has helped American readers to understand the complexities of Asia.”

Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance (Penguin USA) was the winner of The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for the Best Current Interest Book.

In April 2012 Ian Buruma was awarded the Abraham Kuyper Prize at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Theater of Cruelty won the 2015 PEN/Diamondstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

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17 thoughts on “About

  1. Geachte heer Buruma,

    Ik wil uw bedanken voor het indrukwekkende boek dat U geschreven hebt over uw grootouders. Het is lang geleden dat ik zo’n mooi boek gelezen heb. U schrijft dat u hoopt dat u hun nagedachtenis eer hebt bewezen. Ik kan u vanuit mijzelf zeggen dat de integere en liefdevolle manier waarop u uw grootouders beschrijft, mij diep hebben geraakt. Het is net alsof ik ze gekend heb. U heeft een prachtig beeld van uw familie geschetst.

    met vriendelijke groet,

    Gerrit Sleeuwenhoek
    Jan Campertlaan 3
    2343dh Oegstgeest


  2. Dear mr. Buruma,
    I am an admirer of you since I read your history book about modern Japan (The creation of Japan from 1853 to 1964, in Spanish). I’m also a historian, specialised in Modern Age, and I’ve got the good fortune to be a professor and researcher in Ibiza.
    I was engrossed while reading the history book called Year Zero. A History of 1945 ( (in Spanish). I really like the book, the information processed, the way it is written, etc.
    I can not be making you any comments but if I could, I think you would be able to complete this interesting work.
    I found that you focus too much on the cases of Germany and Japan as countries that suffered authoritarianism and the subsequent attempt of decontamination, which ignores the case of Italy. In this state there were carried out very radical actions due to the change imposed from 1945. Of course, less than many would have liked, as in other countries. This issue is more evident in the chapter called “Drain the poison.”
    I would also like to address the question of the treatment against Nazism in Austria, which shows less information to process than what was happening in neighboring Germany.
    Moreover, speaking of collaborators, and their subsequent treatment of persecution, or not, with the Nazi regime in occupied countries in Western Europe, it barely mentions cases like Quisling of Norway, or Belgium, or the fighters from these countries in German military units.
    Also, consider that many of these people found refuge in Franco’s Spain. I’ve met a Latvian who fought with the Germans in the USSR. It still makes my skin crawl remembering when I learned that this gentle old man had been a Nazi.
    I hope that you do not feel that I address these considerations to make you humble. Hopefully someday we can match somewhere. I reiterate my admiration for your publications.


    • Thanks for your message. There are many things I left out of my book. I think this is inevitable. One is drawn to certain topics more than others. Also I tried to take a thematic approach, so I did not need to use every example as an illustration. best wishes, Ian Buruma


  3. Mijn vader was ook in Berlijn Lichtenberg t.b.v. arbeidseinsatz Knorr Bremse. Ik heb nog foto’s uit het lager Mollendorfstrasse.


      • Mijn vader heette Simon Hertog kwam uit Haarlem. Destijds via zijn werkgever, de Sierkan uit Haarlem, opgegeven. Bevrijd door de Russen en met een groep Russen en Polen richting Katowice gegaan. Daar in een groot kamp terecht gekomen ( ik vermoed een voormalig KZ ) Overigens heeft mijn zoektocht ertoe geleid dat een van de omgekomen Nederlanders tijdens het bombardement nu geindentificeerd is en een steen heeft op zijn graf.

        Een vriendelijke groet aan uw vader.

        Ton Hertog



  4. Mijn vader heette Simon Hertog kwam uit Haarlem. Destijds via zijn werkgever, de Sierkan uit Haarlem, opgegeven. Bevrijd door de Russen en met een groep Russen en Polen richting Katowice gegaan. Daar in een groot kamp terecht gekomen ( ik vermoed een voormalig KZ ) Overigens heeft mijn zoektocht ertoe geleid dat een van de omgekomen Nederlanders tijdens het bombardement nu geindentificeerd is en een steen heeft op zijn graf.

    Een vriendelijke groet aan uw vader.

    Ton Hertog


  5. Dear Mr Buruma
    I have just finished reading Voltaire’s Coconuts/Anglomania which I read on the advice of a friend who said I ought to read it because a couple of my late father’s (also Peter Clarke) poems were included in the chapter on Pevsner.
    I do feel that the section gives an impression of my father’s relationship with Pevsner which is not entirely correct and which might even be taken to indicate anti-semitism on my father’s part.
    You refer to my father as being “[one] of Betjeman’s friends” and say that Pevsner “wasn’t amused” by the poems. In fact both Pevsner and Betjeman were half a generation older than my father and he got on well with both of them while at the same time being a bit in awe.
    My impression is that he was no closer to one of them than to the other-if anything he was closer to Pevsner because Pevsner was more involved with the Vic Soc. Bevis Hillier’s biography of Betjeman says “Peter Clarke had become friends with Pevsner by parodying him”- “Pevsner read [the article] and was so amused by its on-target barbs that he wrote to congratulate Clarke. The correspondence led to an enduring friendship. Clarke was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Victorian Society.” In fact the Punch poems appeared around 1955 and the Vic Soc didn’t really get going until 1963.
    My father was a very involved member of the Vic Soc known for organising Victorian walks until 1975 when he and my mother were killed in a road accident. He gave a talk to the Art Workers Guild with Pevsner on Victorian buildings, entertained Mr and Mrs Pevsner at our home in Kensington and gave Pevsner as a referee when he changed careers in 1970.
    My father was a good linguist. He spent a year in Vienna after the War in Allied Military Government and spoke German. He was a brilliant mimic and always noticed if someone spoke in a strange way. He enjoyed it but he was never unkind about it. In Bevis Hillier’s book he mentions that my father and my godfather Tom Greeves made a tape of a fictitious Victorian Society meeting on which they did all the voices between them. They also did a cartoon Christmas card in 1963 called The Battle of Bedford Park in which Pevsner and Betjeman both appear on the same side. The cartoon is in Hillier’s book and also appears in Susie Harries’ biography of Pevsner written since Coconuts.
    In fact when Susie Harries did her book she sent me (at the last moment) the bits that referred to my father and the poems. She had drawn rather similar conclusions to you and possibly more extreme- my brother mentioned anti-semitism when I showed them to him. Fortunately she agreed to water them down for the final version.
    Thank you for reading this. I felt that I would like to set the record straight.
    Best wishes
    Peter Clarke
    16 September 2016


  6. Dear Mr Buruma, Sir,

    Greetings from Bucharest, Romania.

    I am currently finishing Year Zero. This is one of the most impressive historical accounts I have ever read and one of the most impressive books.

    I wish to thank you for your superb work, insights and ability to bring to life one of the utterly troubled years of Europe’s recent history.

    I wish you all the best.

    Andrei Nicolau


  7. I have just completed reading Year Zero. Extraordinary history telling! Thank you. I was nearing my reading’s conclusion when the results of the US election came to pass. Is this another “year zero”?
    H Kaufman


  8. Dear Mr. Buruma,

    I wish to thank you for Year Zero, an absolutely amazing overview of the most challenging time in global history. It is riveting. As a child of the ‘Blitz’ and a retired teacher of Geography and History, I am sorry that this work was not available to me as a resource during my teaching years. One amazing link I have with your book, however, is Brian Urquhart. This amazing man hosted me and a dozen of my grade 12 students at the UN in New York. We spent over an hour with him. It was 1985, International Year of Youth, and I had spent a year writing to UN officials for an opportunity for my students to meet and discuss issues they had determined to be of importance. He was the ‘Stand Out’ person of all the senior UN bureaucrats and Ambassadors we met and interviewed. My students and I came away absolutely in awe of him. He was engaging, warm, and brilliant. I still have the report that one of my students wrote. I see that you hold him in the same esteem.

    Thank you again.

    Tom Dykes
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada


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