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The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel Hardcover – April 5, 2011
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About the Author
He has taken road trips to war zones, sneaked into police states under false pretenses, dodged incoming rocket and mortar fire, stayed in some of the worst hotels ever built anywhere, slipped past the hostile side of a front line, been accused of being a spy, received death threats from terrorists, and been mugged by Egyptian police officers. When he's not doing or writing about these things, he writes novels.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic among numerous other publications, and he's a contributing editor at World Affairs and City Journal. He has reported widely from the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and the Balkans. A former resident of Beirut, he lives in Oregon with his wife and two cats.
Top Customer Reviews
So take this review with a grain of salt if you must, but know this: I would not be afraid to deliver a bad review to Michael if it were warranted. He has too much integrity to freak out and fire his friends over something like that. Those 5 stars are legit.
To me, what makes "The Road to Fatima Gate" different from every other book about the Middle East is this: Totten is genuinely curious about every culture, every person, every religion, every sect, every building, every propaganda poster, every town, every conflict--everything--he encounters. Even though "Fatima Gate" is a first-person account, Totten gets out of the way and lets the people and the place tell the story because he genuinely wants to understand. Most journalists and writers fail miserably at that. They have a story to tell and find a way to impose it on the places and people they encounter. Not Totten.
He listens to everyone--cab drivers, soldiers, Hezbollah security officers, journalists, Lebanese activists, bartenders, Israeli soldiers. He wants to know. He wants to understand. He wants the story he tells to be genuine and real and true. Every person has something to teach him. Every perspective is interesting on its own terms, just for existing.
And that is why his book is a game-changer.Read more ›
Michael Totten is not an academic, and he's not a political activist. He's a concerned American citizen who happens to be an excellent writer. This makes him a journalist, but that title doesn't fully suite him either, because it often implies reporting on deadline. His interest is not in parachuting into a foreign capital, interviewing the most important political actors and academics, writing about it, and leaving.
Totten truly wants to understand the Middle East. As is apparent in The Road to Fatima Gate, Totten arrived in the region for the first time already well versed in the academic and political theories on Lebanon, Israel, and the Middle East at large. However, those works did not describe the place Totten saw. Lebanon and Israel and the people living there were nothing like what he read in books and saw in the news. The first thing he needed to do was to reorient himself.
Totten writes that he was apprehensive on arrival in Beirut, but suddenly recognized that the images didn't match the place. A young man in a bar says to him, "You must be crazy to be here." Totten responds, ""You really think so?" I said. I didn't feel crazy to be there. That feeling passed after twenty-four hours" (7). But, of course, how could he know for sure? He didn't do what many journalists would have done: run to the politicians and the political risk consultants and the academics. He talked to the people. He went to their houses, dined with them, and drank tea. It seems his stringers were nice people he met along the way who offered to help him understand this complex place.Read more ›
Michael Totten is different, and reading him is too. His understanding of the middle-east comes not just from personal experience, but from a perception that allows him to grasp conflicts and ideas not as news but as forces created by, and effecting, lives. He has a sub-conscious hatred for sectarianism and an outward sensibility that guards his writing, keeping it comprehensively logical and fair and therefore easy to understand without minimizing a subject's complexity. He demonstrates these qualities unfailingly in what Id call his finest work to date: The Road to Fatima Gate: the beirut spring, the rise of hezbollah, and the iranian war against isreal.
It begins where it should: "I'm going to die here" a colleague of Michael's said to himself on the plane.
When he arrived, Totten stayed in west Beirut at a ghost hotel, feeling the thick tension and fear in the air. The Lebanese prime minister's motorcade was just blown up and as locals knew very well, things could get worse. "You are crazy to be here right now," the man said next to him at a bar. "Crazy."
Michael travels to both sides of the temperamental border-region between Hezbollah controlled Lebanon and Israel, finding the sneaky hand of Iran and all the people caught between its fingers.
Michael mixes memoir and history, proving that the latter is defining the present and demonstrating within the former that he doesn't have it in him to be a bore.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Totten is essential to understanding the Middle East. Well-written and insightful.Published 6 months ago by uncoutlaw
I picked this book because I served at the US Embassy in Beirut from 1996-97. I retired in 2000 and was out of the loop on what was really happening in Beirut since I no longer... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jimmy D
Great book for those who want to truly understand the complexity of the Middle East.Published 15 months ago by Joe Kowalski
Oh boy, he gets inside Hezbollah before the war with Israel in 2006 and what an eye opener!Published 21 months ago by A. Wertheim
This is a book that everyone should read. Though depressing, it is no doubt a book and information that everyone should know. Read morePublished on March 10, 2013 by David P. Diaz
A very well written account of Lebanon recent history. Never boring, most times really exciting, always true and honest. Just couldn't put it down!Published on March 5, 2013 by marcelo monteiro
Middle eastern politics have a reputation for being hopelessly arcane and boring, so you might not expect much from a non-fiction book about it... Read morePublished on August 18, 2012 by Mason
Few books are this well written. This book is not only a fantastic and gripping read. It is also a primer on the whole middle east. Read morePublished on August 8, 2012 by Blue Fox