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The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq Paperback – April 1, 2007

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The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq + The Places In Between
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780156032797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156032797
  • ASIN: 0156032791
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Soon after Stewart, a British diplomat and professional adventurer, traveled to Iraq late in 2003 to search for work, he was named a provincial governor. In characteristic understatement, he says of his new role: "I spoke little Arabic, and had never managed a shattered and undeveloped province of 850,000." His job was supposed to be easy: the province, Maysan, nestled along the Iranian border deep in Iraq's Shia south, was one of the country's most homogenous, and nearly all of its citizens had fought against Saddam. Stewart spent most of his time navigating through a byzantine and thoroughly unfamiliar political landscape of tribal leaders, Islamist militias, Communist dissidents and Iranian intelligence agents. When he asks an adviser in Baghdad what his goals should be, his friend responds that if, within a year, the province hasn't descended into anarchy and Stewart can serve him "some decent ice cream," he will be satisfied. Engrossing and often darkly humorous, his book should be required reading for every political commentator who knows exactly what to do in Iraq despite never having dealt with recalcitrant interpreters or an angry mob. In the end, Stewart prevails and is rewarded with an appointment to Dhi Qar, a much more dangerous province with less military support. 16 pages of photos. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–At the age of 30, the author, a former soldier and diplomat, speaker of Farsi but not of Arabic, was appointed as one of the leading Coalition civilian officials in Maysan, acting as deputy commander first there and then in Nasiriyah during the final nine months of the Coalition's authority in Iraq. Stewart's tale, even more than his complex identity, gives insight into the new and unexpected situation into which the United States and its allies were thrust after toppling Saddam Hussein. His story is one of relations: with his civilian and military counterparts from different nations in the provinces; with the leaders of the Coalition in Baghdad; and with the Iraqis with whom he was trying to build a new order and to whom he was to leave the provinces' leadership in but a few months. He recounts all this in fascinating and stimulating detail. The knowledge and the ignorance, the past history and the present reality, and the effects that they have had and are having become better clarified for Americans at home from reading this book.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Rory Stewart has written for the New York Times Magazine, Granta, and the London Review of Books, and is the author of The Places in Between. A former fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the British government for services in Iraq. He lives in Scotland.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The Prince was probably the most famous resistance leader in Iraq.
Virgil Brown
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the middle east, or international studies.
Rebecca C. Elo
The book reads like an exciting adventure novel or story of international intrigue.
Orville B. Jenkins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 127 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on August 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sidewalk Sam on November 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.
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