Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mideast Index


(The Pyramids, Shah Mosque, Nile River, Ishtar Gate, and Jerusalem)

Cradle of Civilization: Ancient Mesopotamia

Age of Empires

Dar al-Islam


The Turkish Span: Medieval to Modernity


The Widening Gyre

Fiction

Literature, Memoirs, and Culture

11 comments:

  1. The politically incorrect reality is this: the Middle East is not an issue involving geography or politics; it is at its root all about religion, and I worry about political leaders who cannot or will not confront that reality because those leaders, here and abroad, doom us to an apocalypse.

    Now, with that out of the way, I ask you a question: Tell me the one book about the Middle East that I must read without further delay.

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    1. The most highly-lauded book on the mideast I've seen is Bernard Lewis, "The Middle East". I haven't read it yet. Ansary's "Destiny, Disrupted" was very engaging, but I don't know how factually sound it is. I noticed mistakes in the chapters on Europe, but then that wasn't his subject...he was merely commenting on European developments for context.

      I think it is impossible to disentangle religion, politics, and culture in general. ISIS, for instance, isn't just a religious organization, it's a lucrative criminal enterprise that attracts many people looking for paychecks. Now that 'we' are going after the money, bombing oil wells and such, their influence is diminishing.

      The mid-east problem has a lot of factors, I think -- domestic stress and reaction against outside manipulation, both of which are taking form in Islamist political activism. An ideology by itself has no power unless its adherents gain something tangible from putting it into effect. I think the appeal of ISIS is the same as the appeal of gangs: money and purpose. Gangs provide a sense of brotherhood, a sense of identity, a 'mission'.

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    2. Your perspectives, especially the ideas about gangs and brotherhood, give me a lot to think about. Thanks!

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  2. I must say that I'm impressed at your efforts to read around the world and to see things from other, and often quite alien, perspectives.

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    1. I think it was Terence who said that 'I am human, and nothing human is alien to me'. It's definitely a sentiment I share and work toward! Thank you. :)

      (It helps that middle-east history has many direct links to western history, so it's not as far-removed as Japan or China..)

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  3. I have a few books on Arabia in 'the Pile' which I need to get around to. Not much on Japan or China (except for The Boxer Rebellion). It's a BIG planet so I'm very conscious that I can't read about everything that's happened - unfortunately.Hence the concentration on Europe which is enough to keep me occupied for the next 20-30 years.

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  4. My intention is to do a year-long Asian series in 2017 -- something like 2 books per month with a focus on China and India. Just enough to create a rough outline in my head, essentially.

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    1. I'll look forward to it. I have a few India books in 'the pile' too.... [grin] LOTS around on both areas though. I don't think you'll have any trouble finding something interesting (to both of us).

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  5. Quite an impressive bibliography. My own experience in this area is limited, but includes the classics Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence and The Cairo Trilogy by Mahfouz. Are there one or two more that you would suggest?

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  6. Quite an impressive bibliography. My own experience in this area is limited, but includes the classics Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence and The Cairo Trilogy by Mahfouz. Are there one or two more that you would suggest?

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    1. The best overview I've read is "Destiny Disrupted", a highly narrative history by an Afghani immigrant to the US. Thanks for mentioning Lawrence's book -- it's not one I've heard of before!

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