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Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey Paperback – June 29, 1999
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Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Dream Palace of the Arabs focusses on a particular time and space in the Arab world--the brief rise of Nasserism and nationalism generally and its subsequent collapse into bitterness. There is much great contemporary relavance in this 1998 work.
Ajami gives us Beirut and Lebanon, both before and during the terrible war; and he takes us into its rich literary world. He discusses the First and Second Gulf Wars [Iran-Iraq war and Desert Storm], explains the subtext of shia/sunni conflict, tells us a bit about Kuwait and a great deal about Saddam Hussein.
My favorite part of the book is the chapter "In the Land of Egypt." The last chapter "The Orphaned Peace" takes us to the heart of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, post-Oslo to the birth of the Palestinian Authority. Despite the tragedies and sorrows encountered in this book, I was left hopeful for peace.
Not conventional history I suppose, but a fine intellectual history of the last half-century in the Arab world. Inspires me to read some Naguib Mahfuz, where I go next on my journey through amazon...
"The Dream Palace of the Arabs" is the sequel to the "Arab Predicament," which Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese professor at Johns Hopkins, published in 1980; back then, Mr. Ajami was younger and "approached [his] material more eager to judge." In the "Arab Predicament," he bemoaned the Arab political experience; in "The Dream Place of the Arabs" he tries to "appreciate what had gone into the edifice that Arabs had built."
This literary journey chronicles the birth of a generation of modernizing Arabs that fought and lost the case for modernity. The history of the past seventy years is narrated through the life of authors and their works-what they wrote, how the societies around them reacted, and how the political condition merged with their literary expression, only to suppress it and silence it.
As a parallel history, "The Dream Palace of the Arabs" could accompany any book. But in looking at the literary interplay between modernizing authors and their surroundings, Mr. Ajami has not only dug deeper in his probe of what brought about the present Arab political condition, but has analyzed the issue on a whole other level.
The reader who is familiar with Middle Eastern history will not feel burdened by the material. The refreshing tone and approach allows Mr.Read more ›
Ajami asks a profound and much debated question, why did modernity seem to pass the Arab world by? ?Scholars,? such as Edward Said, argue that everything is the fault of the West and imperialism and that nothing intrinsic in Middle Eastern and Islamic culture deserve the blame. In contrast, Ajami takes seriously the fact that prior to the enlightenment, Islamic society was both intellectually and materially superior to West. Indeed, after World War II, with a fair number of Western educated citizens and a burgeoning middle class, many observers say the Middle East having a bright future, likely brighter in fact, than those currently economic and political successes, South Korea, Tiwan, and the other ?asian tigers.? What then, went wrong? Ajami points to Arab society never internalizing the nation state and that democratic values never gained currency beyond a small clique of intellectuals. Instead, such modern political ideas were seen as imperialist impositions, given little more than lip service.
I disagree with Ajami on several points, most notably his rosy predictions for Egypt. Still, the work is well worth a serious read for any student of the Middle East.
Instead, it is impressionistic and non-linear. Events are narrated as episodes in the life or from the perspective of a certain poet or political figure. This gives the book a dreamy, subjective quality. This, surely, is the point: not to answer a specific historical question, but to tell the tale of "a generation's odyssey", as the book's subtitle has it.
The result is effective and haunting in its sense of disillusionment and frustration, and I recommend the book highly.
The one caveat I offer is that the reader will get much more out of this book if s/he has already read at least some Middle Eastern history, and preferably a fair amount.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I began reading Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal where he provided occasional op eds and learned about his books only after his death in 2014. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Alma Kadragic
I always enjoyed Fouad Ajami's articles in the Wall Street Journal because they went into depth on the events in the Middle East going beyond the superficial events of the day. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Alfalfa
A must read for anyone who wants a better understanding of Middle East, processes going on in Middle East and Arabs people thought. It is really revealing and educating. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Alexey Smolin
An interesting and cogent analysis of the emerging fault lines that pit liberalism, authoritianism and religious fundamentalism against each other in the Levant, made even more... Read morePublished on October 16, 2011 by L. King
One of the most illuminating books I read recently. Ajami analyses the socio-political events that define the Arab modern public psyche. Read morePublished on December 29, 2010 by Tarek
Dr. Ajami offers readers his erudition and wisdom, a rare combination. His observations on the Middle East and on the social psychology of modern Arab letters should be required... Read morePublished on January 18, 2008 by Bubba Souffle
This book is an absorbing blend of history and literary criticism. A somewhat melancholy narrative of the political and economic failure of the Arab World in the 20th century, it... Read morePublished on October 23, 2005 by Peter Uys
As was written by another "(Fouad Ajami) has no axe to grind unlike Ed (sic) Said". True anough Ajami is far too busy being a perfect hound fetching and in his case... Read morePublished on December 19, 2003 by Toshie Ishii O' Grady