Nasser: The Last Arab

Nasser: The Last Arab

by Said K. Aburish

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The definitive biography of the most important Arab leaders of the 20th century.

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The definitive biography of the most important Arab leaders of the 20th century.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to London-based journalist Aburish, his is the 28th biography of Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970). The statistic says much about the appeal of the Egyptian colonel who forced out King Farouk yet failed to modernize an unwilling nation that adored him. Nasser evicted Britain from Suez and funded the Aswan Dam, but, Aburish concedes, could not lead Egypt out of backwardness, corruption and Islamic extremism. This biography has more politics than life in it, and much repetitive and often contradictory history. Once Nasser joins with dissident fellow officers whom he quickly co-opts, the reader learns little more than that he was always a good husband and father, spurned corruption and suffered early on from the heart trouble and diabetes that killed him at 52. Aburish mourns the lost potential of the man he sees as the greatest figure in the region since Saladin, but acknowledges that the inability to delegate authority to anyone not an incompetent and thus likely to unseat him left Nasser unable to achieve real change. The book attempts to explain Nasser's contradictions regarding relations with America (and the CIA), Russia, Israel and his Arab neighbors, but Aburish is unable to persuade even himself. At one point, for example, Nasser's "heir apparent" Zakkaria Mohieddine quarreled with him "and never saw Nasser again," but 15 pages later he is named prime minister "and seldom met his leader alone." Also marred by a propensity for triteness, this biography is unlikely to appeal to readers beyond those who are fixated on Middle Eastern political turmoil. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Gile Gordon, Curtis Brown Edinburgh. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Thoughtful-though sometimes puzzling-biography of the Arab world's "most charismatic leader since the Prophet Mohammed," and the last to command international influence. Gamal Abdel Nasser's death, more than 30 years ago, marked an end to Arab internationalism, an effort to build a pan-Arab polity. In the place of that populist movement, writes London-based Arabist Aburish (A Brutal Friendship, 1998, etc.), stand, on one hand, corrupt dictatorships ("The House of Saud fails to qualify as an institution, unless perpetuating despotism is elevated to an acceptable form of continuity") and, on the other, Islamic fundamentalism. Many readers may question Aburish's view that the West is the cause of this fundamentalism, but there it is: Nasser's "dreams have been hijacked by the Islamic movements the West created to defeat him." One need not accept that odd thesis, though, to profit from Aburish's account of Nasser's rise to power and his concerted efforts, once he got there, to extend the possibilities of an Egyptian-led Arab enlightenment into the dark corners of the Arab world-which included Saudi Arabia and Iraq, whose governments opposed Nasser at every turn. Aburish also traces the origins of Nasser's growing militancy to a conference of nonaligned nations of 1955, in which China's Chou En-Lai, Yugoslavia's Tito, and India's Nehru separately urged him to lessen his reliance on the West and become an independent, neutral force in the region. Nasser did so, Aburish shows, which set him in opposition to France and England (whence the Suez Crisis of the following year), cost him American support, and drew him into the Soviet camp, even though Nasser remained a middle-of-the-roader through andthrough ("Becoming a revolutionary meant throwing caution to the wind, something Nasser the conservative, ardent nationalist never did"). "For an Arab to excel in administration is rare," Aburish remarks in another curious statement. If so, Nasser was all the more exceptional. Agency: Curtis Brown UK

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St. Martin's Press
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