Alexandria: City of Memory

Overview

This is a literary, social and political portrait of Alexandria during the first half of the twentieth century, a high-point in its history. Drawing on diaries, letters and interviews, Michael Haag recovers the lost life of the city, its cosmopolitan inhabitants and its literary characters.

Located on the coast of Africa yet rich in historical associations with Western civilization, Alexandria was home to an exotic variety of people whose cosmopolitan families had long been ...

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Overview

This is a literary, social and political portrait of Alexandria during the first half of the twentieth century, a high-point in its history. Drawing on diaries, letters and interviews, Michael Haag recovers the lost life of the city, its cosmopolitan inhabitants and its literary characters.

Located on the coast of Africa yet rich in historical associations with Western civilization, Alexandria was home to an exotic variety of people whose cosmopolitan families had long been rooted in the commerce and the culture of the entire Mediterranean world.

Alexandria famously excited the imaginations of writers, and Haag folds intimate accounts of E. M. Forster, Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and Lawrence Durrell into the story of its inhabitants. He recounts the city's experience of the two world wars and explores the communities that gave Alexandria its unique flavour: the Greek, the Italian and the Jewish. The book deftly harnesses the sexual and emotional charge of cosmopolitan life in this extraordinary city, and highlights the social and political changes over the decades that finally led to Nasser's Egypt.

'Michael Haag's 'Alexandria' is a remarkable achievement. Not merely a composite biography of Forster, Cavafy and Durrell, or their relations with the city, it is also a history of Alexandria, full of fascinating detail.' Professor Sir Frank Kermode

Michael Haag is a writer, photographer and publisher. He published and provided the afterword and notes to the first British edition of E. M. Forster's 'Alexandria: A History and a Guide', and he is the author/photographer of 'Alexandria Illustrated' (The American University in Cairo Press).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300191127
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2004
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 783,151
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Haag is a writer, photographer and publisher. He published and provided the afterword and notes to the first British edition of E. M. Forster’s Alexandria: A History and a Guide, and he is the author/photographer of Alexandria Illustrated (The American University in Cairo Press).

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Table of Contents

Prologue : the capital of memory 1
1 A tram with a view 11
2 Alexandria from the inside 54
3 If love is eternal 76
4 High society : a history and a guide 119
5 Mixed doubles as usual 170
6 Personal landscape 196
7 Mirrors 228
8 Prospero's tower 260
9 The unburied city 294
Epilogue : a passage form Alexandria 318
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2005

    The Compleat History of the Mysterious City of Alexandria

    Michael Haag has taken on a challenge few historians would accept: he has recreated a solid history of a city shrouded in mystery since its inception or formation by Alexander the Great. And while much is known about Alexandria through novels and movies and war ruminations and social epithets and other sources that border on mythology, this amazingly fascinating city has undergone so many changes since Alexander's time, each new set of inhabitants has destroyed the remnants of the previous owners, leaving us with only isolated antiquities and memories as passed on by word of mouth and fleeting letters. The occupations by the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Egyptians, the Italians and the Jews have smoldered in a cauldron of secrecy until the present. Haag takes us by the hand and the head and accompanies us on this myriad excursion of exploration of ALEXANDRIA: CITY OF MEMORY by wisely emphasizing the writings of three of our greatest artists - Constantine Cavafy, Lawrence Durrell (of the famous 'Alexandria Quartet') and E.M. Forster (best known for his novels including 'Howard's End'). It is primarily through the eyes of these exciting writers that Haag has gathered information from their own novels and poems, interviews, letters, and articles about these famous inhabitants of Alexandria who from before World War I through World War II documented the romance of the city as well as the intense social and political life that nurtured the cosmopolitan importance of this amazing place. Haag is at his best when he is relying on the writings from these three men, documents which reveal the wide range of sexuality so compatible with the city (Cavafy and Forster are each discussed extensively regarding their same sex lifestyles and confidantes, and Durrell is outlined by the several wives and mistresses he had). Weaving these men's lives and influences through the changing governments and attitudes of the city and its populace makes for fascinating reading. When Haag ventures into the lives of the purely political and commercial giants of the city through the years, the writing becomes less interesting, though equally informative. In the end, while there are many pages of information that merely begin to slow the reader's concentration and interest, ALEXANDRIA: CITY OF MEMORY is a superb book of history and biography of a place that has heretofore eluded scholars. An additional positive aspect is Haag's use of many photographs of the city from all eras. Recommended for the patient but inquisitive reader. Grady Harp

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

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