The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey

By Butterworth, Charles E. | The Middle East Journal, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview

The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey


Butterworth, Charles E., The Middle East Journal


MODERN HISTORY AND POLITICS

The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey by Fouad Ajami. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. xx + 312 pages. Notes to p. 322. Acknowledgments to p. 324. Index to p. 344. $26.

Reviewed by Charles E. Butterworth

This rich, provocative book poignantly reveals Fouad Ajami's inability to make cultural and political sense of a political, intellectual, and literary world he disparages even as he seems to admire its many layers. Still, Ajami's style, as befitting one who must be likened to V.S. Naipaul in tone and content, is most attractive. The dream palace of the title hearkens back to a passage in T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and Ajami seeks to account for what has become of this "intellectual edifice of secular nationalism and modernity" since 1970 or so.

Somewhat autobiographical, especially in the first two chapters, the book betrays Ajami's bitterness both toward his elders and his own generation. At the same time, it offers a most unusual, thickly woven social history of prominent Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, and Egyptian Arab writers. For the most part, Ajami refers to the writings and general history of their lives to illustrate their sorrow at the transformation of their world, all the while attempting to identify the agents of that change. In chapter 2, for example, he probes the life of Khalil Hawi-reaching back to Beirut of the 19th century and describing its evolution through the middle and late 20th century-to provide a rich social history of the city and of how it shaped Lebanon. The reader comes to know Hawi, his family, and his struggle intimately, as well as the literary and even the para-military endeavors of Christians (e.g., Anton Saadah) to gain recognition there. The tale, replete with little by-ways and sketches of writers as academics, nonetheless celebrates petty injustice while ignoring massive outrage. It was not, after all, slights fueled by false social values that prompted Hawi to kill himself on June 6, 1982, but the Israeli invasion. In the face of such horror, how can it be said that "he protested too much" (p. 73 with pp. 87-89)?

Chapter 3 provides a sweeping political history of the Middle East from that infamous day on to Desert Storm 1991, as reflected in the writings and actions of Adonis, Nizar Qabbani, and Abdelrahman Munif-these given perspective by mini-dissertations on language, tribal custom, and religious doctrine. Seizing upon the tension these writers (above all, Adonis) discerned between the demands of tradition and modernity, Ajami probes for their response to it in their biography, not their writings.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.