21 SEPTEMBER 1956, Page 28

from Karachi. to Kamchatka

FEW contemporaries can have so 'wide a range of direct experience of Theatre in Asia as Mr. Faubion Bowers, whose Theatre in the East (Nelson, 42s.) surveys the many forms of the art in the region extending from Karachi to Kamchatka. His earlier books showed him an intelligent Asiophile intrigued with the arts of Japan and India; here he summarises effec- tively the theatre arts of fourteen countries ranging in size from China to the Philippines. Mostly he is precise, topical and culturally alert about the different systems and he is the first non-Asian writer to give a total picture of the dance-art of Bali. Although this com- pilation has the air of Hercules' thirteenth task, Mr. Bowers succeeds in giving a com- prehensive panorama of theatre art in the most culturally complex third of the world. Earle Ernst in The Kabuki Theatre (Seeker and Warburg, 35s.) provides no less than the Westerner's Complete Guide to the genesis, history, forms, texture, fashions and archi- tectural shape of the greatest popular art of Japan. He is immersed in the subject and in love with it, and what he appears not to know is so microscopic as to be totally invisible.