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Sandcastles : the Arabs in search of the modern world

Author: Milton Viorst
Publisher: New York : Alfred Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1994.
Edition/Format:   Print book : English : 1st edView all editions and formats
Summary:
A Single "Arab nation" has never existed, not even a thousand years ago, when the Arabs, driven by a rigorous new faith, conquered the Middle East and North Africa. Today, two hundred million Arabs share a language and a variety of historical experiences, the culture of Islam - and a deep-seated uncertainty about their place in a world changing at terrifying speed.
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Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Viorst, Milton.
Sandcastles.
New York : Alfred Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1994
(OCoLC)622228362
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Milton Viorst
ISBN: 0679405992 9780679405993
OCLC Number: 28292653
Description: xiv, 414 pages ; 24 cm
Contents: Iraq --
Turkey --
Egypt --
Syria --
Lebanon --
The Palestinians --
Kuwait --
Jordan --
Iraq revisited.
Responsibility: Milton Viorst.

Abstract:

A Single "Arab nation" has never existed, not even a thousand years ago, when the Arabs, driven by a rigorous new faith, conquered the Middle East and North Africa. Today, two hundred million Arabs share a language and a variety of historical experiences, the culture of Islam - and a deep-seated uncertainty about their place in a world changing at terrifying speed.

In the midst of war, enormous economic disparities, personal and ideological rivalries and threats from the outside, the Arabs are searching for their place in the modern world.

It is this search that Milton Viorst examines in Sandcastles. Drawing upon his long personal experience in the Middle East and many recent trips undertaken as a correspondent for The New Yorker, he takes us deep into the aspirations, fears, prejudices, hopes and convictions of the inhabitants of seven key countries, and of the people without a country - the Palestinians. What emerges is a profoundly perceptive picture of the Arabs as they have been, as they are, and as they may become.

Viorst takes us first to Baghdad, an ancient city of art, literature and lost grandeur, whose hopes for a renaissance have been crushed by tyranny and war. We travel then to Istanbul, capital of an empire that for centuries ruled the Arabs, leaving them with a taste for Islamic zealotry, strong coffee and political despotism.

In Cairo, Viorst's fascinating series of talks with the Nobel laureate novelist Naguib Mahfouz illuminates the despair of Egypt; in Damascus, we are offered a frightening insight into the autocracy of Hafez al-Assad, who sees himself as heir to the legendary warrior Saladin.

In sorting out Lebanon's political and religious factions, Viorst shows us how a civilized society, in submitting to baser passions, careened to the edge of self-destruction. Among the displaced Palestinians, jammed into the camps of Gaza or tenuously clinging to life in shabby West Bank towns, he finds prospects of a better life suffocated by military occupation and stone-throwing anger.

In surprising revelations on the origins of the Gulf war, Viorst describes an oil-fed greed that made Kuwait the enemy of most Arab nations, notably Iraq, while in the desert kingdom of Jordan, he tells how a king descended from Mohammed experiments with democracy to keep fundamentalists at bay.

A return to Iraq after the Gulf war yields a report on the melancholy of a people whose leader seems to invite still more destruction upon them, and the book closes with a crisply up-to-date account of the Israeli-PLO settlement and its consequences.

Balanced and thought-provoking, and at the same time wonderfully alive with fresh and insightful reporting, Sandcastles is an exceptional book, essential for understanding the desperate efforts of a people with an illustrious past to restore the prospect of a bountiful future.

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