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From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East (Anglais) Broché – 5 mai 2005

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  • Broché: 560 pages
  • Editeur : Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ); Édition : New Ed (5 mai 2005)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 075381871X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753818718
  • Dimensions du produit: 13,1 x 2,8 x 19,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Dr. Bojan Tunguz sur 5 avril 2011
Format: Relié
the more they remain the same. This old truism is a succinct description of this collection of essays and articles by Bernard Lewis. The collection spans well over half a century of scholarly work of this doyen of Orientalism and Near Eastern studies. It is a fascinating walk through many facets of the rich history of the Middle East, and if you are new to the subject, as I am, it is probably one of the best starting points to the field. Many articles touch upon the subject that are as relevant today as when Lewis first wrote about them, which in many ways is a bit unsettling. I am always a bit skeptical about the use of ancient feuds and disputes as a justification for modern-day conflicts, but if a certain theme persists more or less unchanged for many centuries, then it would be foolish to ignore it. This book can be an invaluable resource to anyone wishing to cast aside those foolishnesses and better understand what is going on in that part of the world. In the example of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Lewis convincingly shows how it was both ancient and modern, fundamentalist and contemporary. It would not do the full historical justice to treat it just in the light of the fundamentalist rhetoric, nor through a prism of contemporary revolutionary rhetoric. Showing the interplay of those two themes is what Lewis excels at, and this book is replete with similar examples.
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30 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An uneven but interesting collection of essays 26 octobre 2004
Par Dennis Littrell - Publié sur
Format: Relié
In reading and reviewing two of Bernard Lewis's recent books (What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response 2002 and The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Holy Terror 2003) I was favorably impressed with not only his obvious erudition, but with his reasoned tone and his realistic perceptions. However, in this volume, which is a collection of some of his writings going back to the 1950s, I found myself a bit mystified. On the one hand there is the brilliance and eloquence for which the venerable historian is well known. On the other hand, there are some strange and unsettled statements which lead me to wonder if Professor Lewis has not lost some of his fabled acuity.

First, there is the inclusion of a very short piece entitled "We Must Be Clear" that he wrote for the Washington Post a few days after September 11, 2001 in which he is anything but. Apparently Lewis wants the US to be clear about its intentions in the Middle East in light of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He concludes that "What is needed is clarity in recognizing issues and alignments, firmness and determination in defining and applying policy." (p. 370) What this vague and essentially empty pronouncement follows is Lewis's apprehension that some states are "friends" on two levels, one "a deep mutual commitment" and the other "based on a perception of shared interests." (p. 369-370)

One will permit me a "You don't say?" here. In this same piece Lewis mentions that Saddam Hussein "has made war against three of his neighbors..." and that the other states in the Middle East "are neither forgetful of the past nor confident of the future." What Saddam Hussein (and what his neighbors think about him) has to do with 9/11 is unclear. It's as if Lewis had something he wanted to say, some connection he wanted to draw, but was unable to be clear about it, perhaps for political reasons or because he thought he knew something he wasn't at liberty to share.

At any rate, even more disconcerting is the article entitled "A Time for Toppling" from the Wall Street Journal a year later (September 26, 2002) in which he seems to be a stalking horse for Bush's desire to invade Iraq. He doesn't however argue so much that Saddam Hussein is a danger to the US, but instead makes the claim that in order to solve the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, it is first necessary to deal with Saddam.

There is some legitimacy to this argument, and Lewis recalls Saddam's policy of rewarding the families of Palestinian suicide bombers with stipends of $10,000 to $25,000. However what is grievously wrongheaded about this "toppling" that Lewis seems unaware of--as was Bush and the neocons in the White House--is that in invading Iraq, the US would create massively more problems than it would solve, and would only exacerbate the predicament of the Israeli and Palestinian people, since the Arab and Muslim world would rally around a kindred Muslim nation invaded by a foreign power even if it was the fiefdom of a hated dictator. I am surprised that the usually wise and learned Professor Lewis could write so nakedly in favor of the foolishly aggressive policy of the Bush administration.

Personally, I think Lewis revealed here the true heart of the historian: such a person may be incredibly wise and reasonable when he has time to think and rethink an issue and has the benefit of his research and a considerable experience; however when he is called upon to make a quick judgment on events still warm in the doing, his judgment may suffer.

So let me recall the Bernard Lewis of the volumes mentioned above and let me quote from a couple of places in this collection in order to balance what would be, on the basis of these two articles, a misconception of the man. Consider, for example, this statement on the three Abrahamic religions of the Middle East: "If we look at them in a wider global perspective, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are different branches of the same religion....Compared with the religions of India, of China and of other places, they are as alike as peas in a pod." Lewis goes on to make the point that when Muslim and Christian say to one another, "'You are an infidel and you will burn in hell,' they understand each other perfectly." However "Such an argument between a Christian or a Muslim on the one side and a Buddhist or a Hindu on the other" would have been "impossible" because "They would not have known what they were talking about." (pp. 200-201)

This insight is from his essay "A Taxonomy of Group Hatred" which originally appeared in the Viennese review Transit in 1998-1999. This is a particularly good essay (published in English here for the first time) in which Lewis doesn't mince words about the human failing called hatred and gives a most interesting psychological and historical take on this most destructive emotion which he allies lamentably with the very essence of the human process of self-identity. He notes, "Loyalty to the tribe, however defined, and hatred of other tribes are at the very core of identity." (p. 203)

There are 51 essays arranged in three parts, "Past History," "Current History," and "About History." There are pieces on such diverse subjects as money, travel and food in addition to the usual political concerns of historians. Particularly good, because of the insight it affords us into the life of Bernard Lewis, is the Introduction in which he outlines his career as a Middle Eastern historian.

I recommend this book for readers who want to increase their knowledge of the Middle East. Here is Lewis's own justification for such a study: "The history of Islam is a vital and essential part of human history without which even 'our' own history is not fully intelligible." (p. 412)
36 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Superb background info for students of the Middle East 15 mai 2004
Par Samuel Saul - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Prof. Lewis once again demonstrates his rare talent for explaining one of the most difficult subjects of world history in clear, lucid language reminiscent of a more literary era. The book is filled with insightful essays describing real episodes, thought patterns, attitudes and customs that have prevailed in the Middle East over the past millenium. As a frequent traveler to the region over the past 4 decades, I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to get a clear picture, uncluttered by neo-liberalism, of the politics and practices of the Islamic world.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A synthesis of decades of brilliant work. 1 juillet 2004
Par William Franklin Jr. - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I have a couple problems with this book, but I will still give it a rating of 5 stars.
My first problem is that it doesn't flow particularly well from one chapter to the next. This is because the book is an anthology of various speeches, op-eds, chapters of other books, lectures, and other work over the years, many previously unpublished. I would have appreciated some more commentary from today's point of view on his work done many decades ago. Because it jumps from year to year, subject to subject, it is hard to digest large portions of it at a time. My recommendation would be to provide even just paragraph-long segues from one chapter to the next explaining why he included each chapter and how it all adds up to the grand point he is making.
Second, I let someone borrow it, and she declared it boring and refused to plug away to finish it. I will admit, this book is not exactly for beginners on the Middle East, nor is it for people looking for exciting quasi-history or conspiracy theories. It is not pop-history. It is, rather, a subtle and mostly objective look at the history and contemporary affairs of the Middle East over multiple generations, and in such a collection of work, one can glean bits of why the world is how it is today. But don't expect the book to jump out and slap you in the face, arguing from the point of view of an extreme ideologue. If you can't handle it being dry in some places, this is not the book for you.
As far as the good things go, the book is a great way to brush up on Middle Eastern history. I've read some of Lewis' other books, and they are also very good. Some of the other ones flow much better than this one, but this one is the one I would recommend to those who want a more comprehensive yet succinct look at the Middle East, because it does cover so many topics.
16 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The great lifework of one of our civilization's finest minds 28 juin 2004
Par Shalom Freedman - Publié sur
Format: Relié
As a reader I have known more than one time in my life that very special pleasure of meeting a book, that lifts one spirit and one's mind, seems to put one in another higher realm entirely, and gives a kind of intellectual joy which certainly must be among life's greatest pleasures. Reading and meeting again the mind of Bernard Lewis in "From Babel to Dragomans" is such a pleasure.
Collected in this work are essays of one of the great intellectual figures of this past half - century. Arguably the world's foremost authority on the Middle East ( and most especially the Ottoman Empire) Lewis in these essays displays not only a vast learning but a civilized and often quietly humorous writing which continually inform and delight. In the title essay he elucidates the concept of the ` dragoman' or ` meturgaman' the translator and in so doing also helps us better understand the way societies which contained within themselves a rich variety of cultures and languages operated . In his remarkable essay " A Taxonomy of Hatred" he gives perhaps the most skilled argument I have ever seen for valuing and considering ` the other'. And this as he analyzes and explains how the instinctual hatred that seems to come to us naturally as primates is refined into something more elegant and deadly in human civilizations. As one who has been involved in the study of the Islamic world for over sixty years he brings a fine sense of the transformations that world has gone through in his lifetime while balancing this against what seem almost inherent cultural patterns these societies cannot free themselves of . His analysis of the distinct identity Iran and Iranian civilization managed to preserve after the Arab onslaught swept aside the ancient cultures of Egypt, Syria and other Mid- East regions too enables us to understand the life- struggle that society is going through today between a narrow Islamic based fundamentalism and a broader richer conception of life and civilization.
The book is divided into three large sections, part one dealing with Past History, part two with what he calls " Current History" and Part Three "About History" In this latter section he makes a defense of the practice and teaching of history. He concludes , "Our education today should be concerned with the development of many cultures, in all their diversity: with the great ideas that inspire them and the texts in which those ideas are enshrined, with the achievements they made possible, and with the common heritage their followers and successors share.
"History is the collective memory , the guiding experience of human society, and we all badly need that guidance"
In this volume Lewis provides that guidance in a continually inspiring and uplifting way.
Who reads this volume will not only read a civilization , but a very great man indeed.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Nice collection of published and unpublished work 16 août 2004
Par Eduward du Bois - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This latest book of Bernard Lewis is a collection of short stories he has written in the last decades, some very old some new. The stories spans a broad area: history of the middle east, Israel, Jihad, Arab Nationalism, Shi'a, United Nations, Islam phobia and more.

I have read his previous three books as well, and I really like the writing style of Bernard Lewis. He sure likes the Arab people he writes about and the cultural legacy they own, but that does not lead him to be uncritical of their society. Also the history in his stories sometimes tries to connect with current affairs. This can lead to interesting stories about the current Jihad suicide bombers and the ancient Assassin order. Or about the Islamic invasions in Europe and the later invasions of imperial Europe. It is also interesting to see what Bernard Lewis has writes long before everybody became interested in the Islamic world (long before 9/11), some are really prophetical...

Just as in his previous works Bernard Lewis writes in a friendly, objective and balanced style about history. To compare it with his previous works, it goes further than "What went wrong" and the "Crisis of Islam" and is not as dry as "The Middle East". Most stories are good, but not all, there is some repeating in the stories, but on a whole I enjoyed it very much and gained more insight in the Islamic world.
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