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Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian Paperback – November 26, 2013
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“Notes on a Century is an extraordinary work: erudite, witty, and profound. In summing up his long life in pursuit of knowledge of the region that has fascinated him since childhood, Bernard Lewis has produced a book that will engage, inform, and entertain the scholar and layman alike.”
“Whether writing about the early history of the Arabs or the development of the modern Turkish state, Mr. Lewis has always been unusually alert to nuance and ambiguity; he is wary of his sources and tests them against other evidence. . . . He has evinced not only an unswerving commitment to historical truth and a hatred of what he calls ‘the falsification of history’ but also a passionate, at times obsessive, curiosity about other peoples, other places. . . . No matter how recondite or exotic his subject matter, he writes incisively and with unobtrusive elegance.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Lewis has led a staggeringly productive life—publishing a jaw-dropping 32 books—and seems to have had more fun than any department worth of more somber professors. . . . We are fortunate to have this chatty memoir of reminiscences of scholarly discovery and stimulating encounters with everyone from Isaac Stern to Scoop Jackson to the shah of Iran.”—The Washington Post
“Few could produce a book as witty, erudite and humorous as this engaging autobiography, which, alongside these lighter characteristics, is also packed with learning and wisdom. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the distillation of a long, attentive and productive life as a scholar and engaged intellectual. . . . We did not need this book to tell us how impressive an intellect Mr. Lewis has or what a superbly informed historian he is, but it reminds us nonetheless of all this. As it does of what a charming and attractive personality he has been graced with, enabling him to draw attention so easily to what he has to impart.”
—The Washington Times
“Thoughtful, outspoken words from a sage who has lived his share of history . . . In episodic, wittily composed chapters, Lewis addresses salient events in his career as a historian of the Near and Middle East. . . . He writes frankly of his long tenure at Princeton, the dicey Israel-Palestinian crisis, and the eclipse of secularism in the Muslim world.”
“Lewis looks back at his achievements as a founder of the discipline of Islamic history, a prodigious scholar and writer, and a tireless traveler who forged relationships with scholars and government leaders all over the world. . . . Here, he conveys the intellectual curiosity and power that has enabled him to transmit to both academics and general readers an understanding of the development of Islam as a faith and a culture along with the rise and decline of Islamic political power. With scholarly rigor and graceful, witty prose, he also offers insights about the nature of history, cultural identity, and literary values. This memoir by an intellectual committed to a relentless search for historical understanding of a complex society is highly recommended.”
“A much-needed corrective . . . Lewis’ understanding reflects more than the usual journalism or scholarship. As a British intelligence officer, a multilingual translator of Middle Eastern poetry, and a tireless traveler through remote regions, Lewis has actually participated in developments shaping the Middle East.”
—Bryce Christensen, Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus at Princeton University and the author of many critically acclaimed and bestselling books, including What Went Wrong? and Crisis of Islam. He lives in Pennsylvania.
Buntzie Ellis Churchill served for twenty-three years as the president of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and for a decade hosted the daily radio show World Views.
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Top customer reviews
I found the book to be a great insight as to how as a historian approaches the world.
As an academic, I found his analysis of why he did things (learn languages, approach history, revise books) to be very enlightening and helpful to my own personal development. As a student of Turkey, I found his insights into the thinking of the Turks and particularly the late President Ozal to be profound.
Overall, his personal assessments of contemporary world leaders with a historian's eye were intriguing and shall provide much for historians to analyze in the future.
Those looking for a dry analytical text may be disappointed because the book is written in a conversational style, telling of his successes yet not boisterously, but also admitting his faults (such as his failed relationships) with a bit of humor.
The final chapter is priceless regarding how the West fails to understand and be effective in promoting democracy in the Middle East.
I heartily recommend this book.