Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyAs a journalist for the BBC, Fox, who now writes for the London Daily Telegraph , criss-crossed the Mediterranean between 1984 and 1991, from Marrakesh in southern Morocco to Syria and Israel. His brilliant mosaic of reportage, travelogue and history offers both a marvelous adventure and a penetrating look at a region beset by population explosion, tribal wars, cultural conflict and the rise of crime syndicates, clan organizations and extremist religious groups. Fox's prose is precise and arresting: in Greece, ``the most conspicuous inanimate victim'' of pollution, he observes, ``is the Parthenon, bandaged in scaffolding against the mordant smog.'' He finds the past embedded in the present in French Provence, experiences culture shock in Egypt's Nile valley, analyzes Turkey's transformation into ``regional strong man'' and gauges Catalonia's cultural revival. In a concluding update, Fox discusses ``the Yugoslav vendetta,'' political corruption in Italy, Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Algeria. (May)
Library JournalJournalist Fox has written an ambitious book, studying the diversity of this ``untidy place with an untidy past'' and thereby discovering the common elements that bind together the Mediterranean peoples. Over a period of five years, Fox visited every country and major island touched by the sea. He provides thumbnail histories of each and also records his interviews with people from all walks of life, giving their opinions on the issues vital to them. Fox succeeds in showing that the region has been underrated by the rest of Europe and North America. His fascinating chronicle is unique, especially as a study of the factionalism (criminal, religious, or ethnic) endemic to the region. For most collections.-- William R. Smith, Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore
Richard Paul SnyderFox spent five years traveling in the Mediterranean region, preparing for this book. His far-more-than-a-travelogue magnum opus details the ceaseless battles between the ancient and the modern; ecology and environmental devastation; individual greed and the common good. His essays temper a great affinity for the land and its people with an apprehension for the future. Thanks to low-cost plastic sheeting, the Mediterranean region now exports more than 30 million tons of tomatoes a year; in fact, tomatoes are so lucrative for southern Italy that local Mafias have taken over their production. But the ragtag greenhouses are one of the biggest eyesores on the Mediterranean scene today. Similarly, tourism is at once a boon and a plague to Egypt, which is home to one-third of the world's archaeological sites. The many visitors cause monument walls to humidify and their steps to crumble; indeed, more deterioration has occurred in the past 30 years than in the previous millenia. Yet the country feeds off tourism. And so it goes. Using his status as journalist to inquire, not romanticize, Fox offers his readers a generous, definitive portrait of this often misunderstood portion of the world.
- Knopf Publishing Group
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