Sandcastles: The Arabs in Search of the Modern World

Sandcastles: The Arabs in Search of the Modern World

by Milton Viorst
     
 

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A book about the 200 million Arabs who share a language & a variety of historical experiences, the culture of Islam — & a deep-seated uncertainty about their place in a world changing at terrifying speed. In the midst of war, enormous economic disparities, personal & ideological rivalries & threats from the outside, the Arabs are searching for their place in the

Overview

A book about the 200 million Arabs who share a language & a variety of historical experiences, the culture of Islam — & a deep-seated uncertainty about their place in a world changing at terrifying speed. In the midst of war, enormous economic disparities, personal & ideological rivalries & threats from the outside, the Arabs are searching for their place in the modern world. Viorst, drawing upon his long personal experience as a correspondent in the Middle East, takes us into the aspirations, fears, prejudices, hopes & convictions of the inhabitants of 7 key countries, & of the people without a country — the Palestinians.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based largely on the author's New Yorker assignments in recent years, this book offers an informative and engaging, if limited, portrait of the Arab world. Viorst's mosaic of observations on Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan and the Palestinians are spiced with effective interviews with officials, experts and village folk; Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz is an especially good guide to ``the hidden dynamics'' of his country. Two crises--the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Gulf War--overlay Viorst's reportage. Gulf War jingoists would be well-advised to read his depiction of Kuwait transformed by easy living, an Iraq which had legitimate grievances and a postwar Kurdish uprising far more complex than headline brutalities. Having spent much of the past year in Gaza and the West Bank, he also updated the book with a lengthy chapter on what the Palestinian-Israeli agreement of September 13, 1993 will mean to those areas. While Viorst certainly supports his conclusion that Arab states are ``as fragile as sandcastles,'' his avoidance of North Africa, and his lack of original Arabic source material limit his authority. (Feb.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Viorst, a New Yorker staff writer and author of numerous books on U.S. and international political history, has made dozens of trips to the Middle East to learn the truth of, and to understand, the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. Viorst's objectivity in reporting life there as it truly is has earned him the trust of both sides. His Sands of Sorrow: Israel's Journey from Independence ( LJ 5/1/87) dealt with Israel's political culture; Sandcastles is a ``counterpart and sequel.'' Here, he examines the history, politics, and culture of various Arab states (Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan) as well as Turkey and the Palestinians. (There is a final chapter on the Palestinians written in November 1993 after the signing of the Oslo Accord). Viorst imparts a huge amount of information in a clear, descriptive style, liberally peppered with personal experiences, human interest anecdotes, humor, and reflection. Although almost deceptively easy to read, this book is no mere travelog; it is a solidly researched and carefully analyzed work. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Ruth K. Baacke, Whatcom Cty . Lib. System, Bellingham, Wash.
Joe Collins
Viorst explores the background and the current state of such countries as Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and even the still-nonexistent Palestine. On a fascinating journey through Kuwait both before and after the Persian Gulf War, he talks to both government officials and champions of the underclass, showing how that country views not only invading Iraq but its own royal family. Saddam Hussein, usually portrayed in the U.S. as a wild-eyed madman, is here seen as overambitious and aggressive but nonetheless dragging his country kicking and screaming into the modern age, a la Mao Zedong. This ongoing "cold war" between traditionally conservative Shiite Muslims (such as Ayatollah Khomeini) and progressive Sunni Muslims (such as Saddam) creates much of the tension in the book, alongside the traditional rivalries with Israel and the civil strife between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon. Viorst's witty but still straightforward reportorial style is especially effective in chapters on Turkey, still attempting to reestablish itself after the days of the Ottoman Empire, and formerly powerful Egypt, now overpopulated and poverty-stricken. "Sandcastles" is an essential part of any classroom's studies on the Arab population in today's world.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679405993
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/08/1994
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
414
Product dimensions:
6.63(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.39(d)

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