Thursday, April 22, 2010

People in Middle East Studies: BUY THIS BOOK

I did not know what to expect: I heard that Patrick Seale was commissioned by the Sulh family to write a book about Riyadh As-Sulh. And he co-wrote (or wrote, let us not kid ourselves) the autobiography of dumb Prince Khalid bin Sultan. I remember discussing it with him once, and let us say that he did not seem proud of the "coauthorship". Hut this book by Seale (The Struggle for Arab Independence) that just came out this week by Cambridge: is not about Riyadh As-Sulh only: it is about contemporary Arab history. Seale is an excellent story teller and he has a great skills of amassing tons of information and not being overwhelmed by it and tell a great story. This is one of his best book, and I am not finished with this 750-pages. But it has a wealth of information. This is one of the best books on the modern Middle East to come in a very long time. Politically, there are problems: the references to Riyadh As-Sulh and his family are fawning and unbecoming. Really bothersome and jarring to read. His account of the assassination of Antun Sa`adah was apologetic (I did not reach that far but read that section in question). So go and read it. People around the world ask me daily to make bibliographical references about the Middle East: and I dont always respond as I dont have the time but this is a book you all need to read.

PS I want to thank Badr Al-Hajj in London for rushing me a copy of the book. I don't normally thank people for gifts they give me. But Badr, also obtained for me a very rare Arabic book from the 19th century that I have been desperately looking for (Diwan Mutanabbi edited by Nasir Yaziji). That gift meant the world to me. And other books he has sent me.

PSS I will revisit this book for a longer review.