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Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq [Anglais] [Broché]

Rory Stewart

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Revue de presse

PRAISE FOR THE PRINCE OF THE MARSHES

"Rueful, richly detailed, often harrowing . . . [Stewart] brings his yearlong diary to a conclusion with a thrilling shoot ?em-up, an Alamo-like last stand in Nasiriya, where Sadrist forces attack coalition offices with mortars."?THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Rory Stewart can write . . . His spare, vivid prose serves him brilliantly . . . There?s sometimes something Monty Pythonesque about the way he sails gallantly, if not quite blindly, into danger."?MICHAEL UPCHURCH, THE SEATTLE TIMES

Présentation de l'éditeur

In August 2003, at the age of thirty, Rory Stewart took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad. A Farsi-speaking British diplomat, he was soon appointed deputy governor of Amarah and then Nasiriyah, provinces in the remote, impoverished marsh regions of southern Iraq. He spent the next eleven months negotiating hostage releases, holding elections, and splicing together some semblance of an infrastructure for a population of millions teetering on the brink of civil war.



The Prince of the Marshes tells the story of Stewart?s year. As a participant, he takes us inside the occupation and beyond the Green Zone, introducing us to a colorful cast of Iraqis and revealing the complexity and fragility of a society we struggle to understand. By turns funny and harrowing, moving and incisive, this book amounts to a unique portrait of heroism and the tragedy that intervention inevitably courts in the modern age.

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Amazon.com: 4.7 étoiles sur 5  80 commentaires
123 internautes sur 126 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Do you REALLY want to know? 14 août 2006
Par Daniel Myers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Do you REALLY want to know what it's like in Iraq? Probably not - All the more reason to read this book. Rory or "Seyyed Rory" as he is called throughout most of the book has written a well-penned, deadpan account of his eleven months or so as an administrator: Governor, Deputy Governor etc., with the Brits in the South of Iraq. Early on in the book, he reflects:

"I had never believed that mankind, unless overawed by a strong government, would fall inevitably into violent chaos. Societies were orderly, I thought, because human cultures were orderly. Written laws and policy played only a minor role. But Maysan (the province to which he's assigned) made me reconsider." P.78

Thus, we have the quotes from Machiavelli at the beginning of each section bearing, in some way, on the Byzantine, disorderly, well, mess in which he finds himself in each particular situation, with Sheiks, militias, clerics, and divisions and sub-divisions and sub-sub-divisions of each.

Those with axes to grind on either side probably won't fancy this book. It doesn't have the headline grabbing title of "Fiasco" or "The End of Iraq" - Furthermore, he depicts good Brits and bad Brits, good Yanks and bad Yanks, good Iraqis and bad Iraqis, as well as some who are at some times courageous and kind and at others cowardly and corrupt.-In other words, the human condition, not some idealised vision of the (all too many) sides. - All the more reason for those with said axes to drop them and read this book.

Yes, I agree that this book does not have the emotional pull of The Places in Between, Rory's earlier book. But this lack goes pari passu with the situation he is in. He is not on an epic quest with a lovable dog he has adopted.-But, rather, trying to make sense of a political muddle.

I agree with the other reviewers that the droll, British understated humour is a saving grace here. - You will often find yourself laughing in spite of yourself, because this humour is based on not very pleasant facts, such as Rory's visit with the soi-disant "Prince of The Marshes" to a girls' high school refurbished by the CPA with Coalition funds, the contractor for which apparently has (as does almost everyone described herein) skimmed a bit of the funding for himself. The Prince turns to Rory and matter-of-factly says: "Now I need to find the contractor who did this work -tell me his name, and I will rip his tongue out."-End of chapter.

This is the first book I've seen on Iraq since the invasion that doesn't have some preconceived notion to pound into the reader's head. It is worth reading for that fact alone. As for what one should come away with from this book as far as notions about what to do or not do in Iraq, this book will be singularly (and delightfully) unhelpful. As the Oxford-educated student of history, Rory Stewart, puts it here:

"History has few unambiguous lessons." P.46
71 internautes sur 75 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Seyyed Rory Steps into a Swamp of Intrigue and Obfuscation 17 août 2006
Par Andrew Schonbek - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
In August of 2003, Rory Stewart (known to the Arabs of southern Iraq as Seyyd Rory) "took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad to ask for a job from the Director of Operations". This was four months after the Coalition invasion. Shortly thereafter Stewart wound up as deputy governate coordinator of Maysan. He became, at age 30, the de-facto governor of a province of 850,000 in southern Iraq, in the immediate aftermath of the war. This is his story.

And an almost incredible story it is - engaging, compelling, and ultimately devastating.

Stewart refrains from analysis and simply tells it like it was, leaving it up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. I can't escape the word; the result is, well, simply devastating.

The author navigates two opposing worlds - on the one hand the intricate web of medieval tribal and religious affiliations in the local populations, on the other, the hapless and naïve bureaucracy of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The following description of the composition of the provisional council that Stewart negotiated into being conveys the flavor of the environment in the province: "I knew these people well. Most had killed others; all had lost close relatives. Some wanted a state modeled on seventh-century Arabia, some wanted something that resembled even older, pre-Islamic tribal systems. Some were funded by the Iranian secret service; others sold oil on the local black market, ran protection rackets, looted government property, and smuggled drugs. Most were linked to construction companies that made immense profits by cheating us. Two were first cousins and six were from a single tribe; some had tried to assassinate each other. This dubious gathering included and balanced, however, all the most powerful factions in the province, and I believed that if anyone could secure the province, they could".

And then there are the bureaucrats, dispensing pearls of misguided wisdom from their hardened position in the Green Zone. "An American Arabist governor who favored broad brimmed hats and was rumored to carry a pair of revolvers said `This is not just a military struggle. This is an ideological struggle. We need to engage with Islamicization and Arab socialism, otherwise we might just produce a well-furnished dictatorship'. Strategic Planning replied with a speech about `best practice gaps analysis and privatization'."

This sense of strategic disconnect, initially just eerie, approaches the level of black comedy as the action unfolds.

Through it all Stewart shows himself to be an elegant writer and a very keen observer. This is from his description of a meeting with a young Sadrist cleric: "The beard, which grew over his white starched collar, had tight curls as soft as adolescent down. His feet were half out of his clogs, revealing the hair around his pallid ankles. He was younger than me, and his high black turban seemed over-large. Not glancing at me but instead letting his large dark eyes drift over the cement floor, he talked quietly and slowly, as if he were contemplating not the words but deeper ideas, to which the words could only point".

Highly recommended reading for those seeking understanding as to what went wrong in Iraq.
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 In the city with no dogs, the fox is king (Sumerian proverb 2000BC) 7 novembre 2006
Par Sidewalk Sam - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
In his story of his 11 months as Governor of an Iraqi provence, Rory Stewart has managed to capture the spirit of the time and place, the many faceted culture of Iraq, and give us a clear and unadorned picture of what it was like to be there - trying to put the pieces of a broken society back together.

The tale is told in the first person by a skillful writer who judiciously levens historical background into his story to aid in our understanding of the events and to put them into a broader perspective without slowing down the narrative or burying us with details of ancient kingdoms.

The Sumerian proverb I used as a title is an example of the interesting and appropriate sayings that adorn the begining of each chapter. From Virgil to Machiavelli to T.E. Lawrence, the author enriches his canvas with a deft touch of the wisdom of the ages.

Most of the time, Seyyed Rory (as he was repectfully addressed by the Iraqis - when they weren't shooting at him ;-) presents his story in an even handed, matter of fact way. He seems to be the epitome of the unflappable British civil servant of a century or two earlier (when most of us would be running around screaming in fear or banging our heads against the wall in frustration - keep a stiff upper lip chaps, what ever happens ;-)

And frustrations are many, from lack of water and electricity, to no staff and no actual cash to meet the varied and almost impossible task of helping to govern after the old system was so completely destroyed.

Speaking of frustrations, his monthly meeting in the capital with the CPA administrators are a spectacular example ;-)

I was not impressed with the perforamce of the Coalition Provisional Authority, but it was this quote from a speech given at the monthly governors meeting in the Green Zone that takes the cake: a colonel from Strategic Planning gets up and says "What we are hoping to do is lay out some philosophical underpinnings of a plan.....to begin a journey of discovery for building a more cohesive implementation of plans and policies across the five core areas.."

When one encounters such mindless buzz-word speak at high level meetings, one knows that we're in deep doo-doo.

But this book is not much about the budgets and death rates and the number of schools that have been re-furbished - it is a story about the people the author meets. And they are a varied and fascinating bunch. The Prince of the Marshes (theoretical ruler of the once powerful Marsh Arabs)being one of the most interesting. The jostling for power between the Prince and the various factions; tribal, political, religious makes the authors attempt to reach concensus a Herculean task. He first meets with some success but as the overall security situation deteriorates, everything seem to fall apart.

The hand over ceremony to the locals at the ancient Ziggurat of Ur has particular irony considering the history of tragic events that it has seen.

Throughout the book, the tragedy of the situation is understated, the author has no axe to grind, no political program to advance. He presents no pre-digested interpretations - we are left to form our own conclusions.

When he leaves one of the local leaders comes over to say they wished he could stay. "You are our hero" he declares.

"What are you talking about Asad - why were you firing mortars and trying to kill me 5 weeks ago" replies the author

"Ah, Seyyed Rory," he replied with a grin, "that was nothing personal"

No matter what your political pursuasions are you should read this book to find out what it's REALLY all about in Iraq.
43 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A witty, charming, humorous book, but it lacks the dazzle of "Places in Between". 29 juillet 2006
Par Yesh Prabhu, author of The Beech Tree - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
This book was first published by Picador in London in June this year, with the title "Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq". It has now been published in the USA by Harcourt with a new title: "The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq".

The Prince of the Marshes is a tribal leader named Abdul Karim al Muhammadawi, who led a group of Shia men who opposed Saddam Hussein's reign over the marshy territory. This tribe fought with Saddam Hussein's army in the 1990s and until the fall of Saddam's regime. The marshes were drained by Saddam's army as a collective punishment to the tribe, to deprive the tribesmen of their source of food and trade. Writing about the marshes, Rory quotes Azzam Alwash, manager of the Iraq Foundation's New Eden project: "In a few short years, Saddam drained them to allow access for his tanks to establish control in the area. After they were dried, the marshes were burned and villages were destroyed."

The Prince is also known as Abu Hatim, "father of Hatim", even though he never had a son called Hatim.

After the invasion of Iraq by the coalition army, Rory Stewart, seeking employment, sent his resume to the occupying British army, but received no reply. Writes the author: "I had resigned from the Foreign Office, but when the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, I sent in my CV(Curriculum Vitae',resume). No one replied. So in August I took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad to ask for a job from the director of operations. A month later, the Foreign Office asked me to be the deputy governorate coordinator of Maysan, which lies in the marshes just north of the Garden of Eden."

This is how he describes Iraq as he saw it upon his arrival: "But the province on election day looks a little like a police state. There are armed men at checkpoints every few kilometres up the highway; policemen with vehicle-mounted machine-guns are checking IDs on almost every street corner; no civilian vehicles are allowed to move on the streets. This may be part of the reason `security has improved.' Yet despite the checkpoints, which are in place every day, there are still daily car-jackings and roadside bombs, and towards the Iranian border there's drug smuggling, looting, and kidnapping of children."

As in "Places in Between", the author's much acclaimed book, there are quite a few humorous passages in this book also. Writing about a reporter named James Astill, a reporter for the Economist, interviewing an Iraqi: "Astill's longest conversation with an Iraqi in Fallujah was with a man urinating against a wall with a suitcase on his head, and thus unable to move for twenty seconds." Here is an example of the author's wicked sense of humor: In a lounge the author decides to dance with an attractive woman to while away time, and talks with her in Bosnian as he dances. "But I must have bored her with my bad Bosnian, because she turned her back on me and went to join a group of women who, from their build, looked as though they were in the army".

If you wish to know one of the reasons why the invasion of Iraq has turned into a fiasco, you can gleam it from this minor episode. The military officers of the occupying army know very little about the Iraqi people and their culture, and even less about how to deal with and talk to the Iraqi men. They have only contempt for the Iraqi men. Soon after Rory's arrival in Iraq, this is what a British military officer says to a small group of new recruits at the airport, in case they are taken hostage by Arabs: "Since you will be taken hostage by Arabs, it is likely that they will male-rape you." Also, he says something so outrageous that it's quite unprintable in a decent website. Shocking, isn't it, that this is what the British military officers think of Arabs? And now you know why they failed so miserably in Iraq.

To place this book in context, however, I think it is appropriate to say a few words about the author's previous book, which I liked very much. In fact, I quite marveled at it. In the year 2001, the author walked across Afghanistan and wrote an extraordinary travelogue and memoir titled "The Places in Between". It received much acclaim and well-deserved rave reviews. This book, however, didn't grip me the way his "Places in Between" did. There are mainly two reasons for this, I think. Reason number one is that there is no Babur in this book. Babur was an affectionate, orphan mutt that Rory Stewart adopted as a traveling companion - a retired, burly, courageous fighting mastiff, unloved and much abused, earless and tailless, and as big as a "small pony", whose loyalty, affection and bravery gave the book an emotional depth. Babur is sorely missed. Reason number two is that Rory walked across Afghanistan like a pilgrim, visiting remote, barely accessible villages, and met many poor but kind and generous and proud and interesting people. In this book, however, the pilgrim has turned into a bureaucrat working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the change in his status reflects very clearly in his prose. (The generals expect Rory to show the Iraqis who is the real boss, and he is told: Do not promise them anything, deny their requests, and use authoritative voice.)And unlike in Afghanistan where he chose to walk, he now travels by taxis and military vehicles to meet corrupt politicians, crooked warlords, stupid generals, prejudiced and insensitive military officers, and tribal leaders and men with selfish motives.

On the whole, however, "The Prince of the Marshes" is written well. And even though it lacks the sheer dazzle of "The places in Between", it still manages to impress on the reader's mind.

Read it, please.
22 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 In the tradition of Lawrence and Burton 7 août 2006
Par C. Bohl - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Rory Stewart's second book, "The Prince of the Marshes", is a superbly written chronicle of his year as a provincial administrator for the Coalition Authority in Iraq during 2003 and 2004. Along with his first book, "The Places In Between", recounting his walking journey, alone, across Afghanistan, it establishes him as possibly the most uniquely talented writer alive today. A multilingual Scotsman, born and raised in Asia, educated at Oxford, a scholar, soldier, diplomat, foreign service administrator, writer, and adventurer extraordinaire. And he is only 33.

After his Afghan trek, Stewart volunteers his services and finds a job as a provincial administrator in the marshlands of Southern Iraq several months after the U.S. takeover. As in his first book, Stewart demonstrates a remarkable ability to interact with a vast array of assorted individuals, sheiks, mullahs, farmers, police, shopowners, etc. His understanding of the culture and mores of these people, allow us to gain insights that other books on Iraq or Afghanistan have been unable to provide. Stewart's descriptions of people and situations are brillantly concise, sometimes taking only a couple of paragraphs to convey what is important. Rarely judgemental, he prefers to describe, letting us draw our own conclusions. He is deeply compassionate and sympathetic towards the people he deals with, but he does not let his humanity override common sense.

I would warn anyone who has read and loved "The Places In Between" to not expect a similar book. His first book is a solo adventure tale that becomes an extremely emotional journey. I think it is a classic. "The Prince of the Marshes" is an enthralling book of politics and culture clashes, with a cast of characters, sieges, gunfights, along with many hilarious situations. By any measure, this book should be read.
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