From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East

From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East

by Bernard Lewis

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Bernard Lewis is recognized around the globe as one of the leading authorities on Islam. Hailed as "the world's foremost Islamic scholar" (Wall Street Journal), as "a towering figure among experts on the culture and religion of the Muslim world" (Baltimore Sun), and as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies" (New York Times), Lewis is nothing less…  See more details below


Bernard Lewis is recognized around the globe as one of the leading authorities on Islam. Hailed as "the world's foremost Islamic scholar" (Wall Street Journal), as "a towering figure among experts on the culture and religion of the Muslim world" (Baltimore Sun), and as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies" (New York Times), Lewis is nothing less than a national treasure, a trusted voice that politicians, journalists, historians, and the general public have all turned to for insight into the Middle East.

Now, this revered authority has brought together writings and lectures that he has written over four decades, featuring his reflections on Middle Eastern history and foreign affairs, the Iranian Revolution, the state of Israel, the writing of history, and much more. The essays cover such urgent and compelling topics as "What Saddam Wrought," "Deconstructing Osama and His Evil Appeal," "The Middle East, Westernized Despite Itself," "The Enemies of God," and "Can Islam be Secularized?" The collection ranges from two English originals of articles published before only in foreign languages, to previously unpublished writings, to his highly regarded essays from publications such as Foreign Affairs and The New York Review of Books. With more than fifty pieces in all, plus a new introduction to the book by Lewis, this is a valuable collection for everyone interested in the Middle East.

Here then is a rich repository of wisdom on one of the key areas of the modern world??a wealth of profound reflections on Middle Eastern history, culture, politics, and current events.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As this collection of writings and speeches from the last 40 years demonstrates once again, Lewis is probably the world's most erudite scholar of the Middle East. The pieces cover virtually all aspects of the region from medieval Turkish history to the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and everything in between. Food for thought abounds: In one essay, Lewis notes that Islam and Christianity had different relations to Judaism because while Christianity wanted to replace Judaism, Islam was more comfortable incorporating Judaism into its traditions. The pieces are divided into three sections: past history, present history and reflections on the historical profession as it relates to the Middle East. The essays are more scholarly than Lewis's bestselling What Went Wrong? for instance, one focuses on etymology and the origins of propaganda in early Arabic states. As a whole, they demonstrate Lewis's long-held contention that Islam has been unable to modernize and a clash of civilizations with the West was inevitable. Lewis is considered one of the intellectual architects of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, so it is of interest that in one essay, he asks what the West should do to help bring about change in the Middle East, and answers, "As little as possible." (Confused readers should note that the essay was written in 1957.) As a result of its scholarly bent, this book may attract a narrower audience than his other recent works, but they reflect the thinking of a profound mind. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This collection of 54 articles and reviews appearing over half a century (from 1953 to 2003), plus three pieces never before published, covers a wide range of subjects, arranged under the rubrics "Past History," "Current History," and "About History." This might suggest a grab-bag of random writings fit only for academics. Not so. Almost all are relevant to contemporary concerns. And since Lewis has emerged as a leading molder of U.S. public opinion on Middle Eastern matters (and is generally believed to have influenced Bush administration policies since September 11), there is added interest in tracking this scholar.

It is revealing that Lewis chose not to arrange these writings in chronological order, as if to suggest that his interpretations, if not timeless, at least have a long shelf life. In fact, his writings do reveal a remarkable consistency of thought over the decades. His arguments, ever forceful and subtle (a rare accomplishment in itself), are not easily summarized and are too many to list. Suffice it to note that included here is his famous "The Roots of Muslim Rage," which, when it first appeared in 1990, introduced the watchword "clash of civilizations" later brandished by Samuel Huntington. His several articles in support of the U.S. war of choice against Iraq (and the whole notion of an "axis of evil") reveal a Lewis who is more forceful than subtle.

Library Journal
Historian Lewis (Cleveland E. Dodge Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton; What Went Wrong?) has been one of the most prolific modern writers on the Middle East and Islam. Throughout his long career, he has made many of the intricacies of Middle Eastern history and Islamic civilization accessible to a broad audience of informed readers and academics in the West. In this latest book, Lewis offers a panorama of more than 50 previously published writings spanning more than four decades of academic life. Chapters in this volume come from scholarly publications, lectures, popular publications, and newspaper columns. The smorgasbord of topics covered includes medieval Islamic history, European encounters with the people of the Middle East, Pan-Arabism, Islam and the West, Ottoman history, and the contemporary developments in the Middle East and Muslim-Western relations. A very useful collection for both academic and large public libraries, even those that own his other books.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Lewis has long been considered the West's leading interpreter of Mideast culture and history, and this collection only solidifies his reputation. —National Review "Bernard Lewis's 2002 study, What Went Wrong?, shed much welcome, if controversial, light on the divergent courses of Islamic and Western civilization. Now in a new collection of essays, Lewis teases out the implications of his earlier argument in a wide range of settings, from traditional Middle Eastern feasts and rituals to the anti-Western propaganda campaigns of al Qaeda."—Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post "For more than four decades, Lewis has been one of the most respected scholars and prolific writers on the history and politics of the Middle East. In this compilation of more than 50 journal articles and essays, he displays the full range of his eloquence, knowledge, and insight regarding this pivotal and volatile region.—Booklist

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Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.60(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Lewis is Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, at Princeton University. His most recent books are The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror and What Went Wrong?, both national bestsellers and the latter a New York Times Notable Book for 2002.

Brief Biography

Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
May 31, 1916
Place of Birth:
London, England
B.A., University of London, 1936; Diplome des Etudes Semitiques, University of Paris, 1937; Ph.D., University of London,

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