Thursday, March 24, 2016

George Tarabishi and Western correspondents in the Middle East

One of the manifestations of the inadequacy of Western reporting on the Middle East is the ignored passing of one of the most influential or read Arab intellectuals of the 20th century, the Syrian George Tarabishi.  He died a week ago and I didn't see any reference to him in any Western media.  His intellectual transformation took him from Ba`thism to Marxism to Existentialism to a mix of liberalism/Freudism.  He was silent about the Syrian war because he--like the Syrian Adonis--never was a fan of the Syrian "revolution".  But, also like Adonis, he avoided criticizing the Syrian regime.  He authored and translated many works: almost a 100 books. He translated (not always adequately) works of Western thought (Freud and Marcuse among others) but from French translations and not from the original German or English.  He was a great stylist who wrote on many topics.  I, of course, disagreed with him politically and only met him once briefly in London.  For those who are interested  in learning more about him, the writings of Michaelle Browers of Wake Forest University include references to him.  Michaelle, who has an excellent command of Arabic, is one of the few Western experts of the Middle East who keep track of Arab intellectual debates and trends.

PS Of course, the fact that most Western correspondents can't read Arabic and can't follow Arabic intellectual debates explains the omission in coverage.

PPS Forgot to mention that his most famous intellectual battle was against the works of Muhammad `Abid Al-Jabiri.

PPPS There are also critical references to Tarabishi in Joseph Massad's Desiring Arabs.