From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East

From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East

From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East

From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East

Synopsis

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The collection ranges from two English originals of articles published before only in foreign languages, to previously unpublished writings, to his highly regarded essays from publications such as Foreign Affairs and The New York Review of Books.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.

Excerpt

Most of the articles, studies and lectures assembled in this volume date from the period of my professional life which began in the autumn of 1949, when I was appointed to the newly-created chair of the History of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London.

I first set foot in the school as an undergraduate student in 1933. Already then I was not entirely a newcomer to Middle Eastern studies. My initiation had begun at an early age, when I was confronted with the need to study a difficult, ancient Middle Eastern text—to be precise, part of Chapter 26 of the Book of Leviticus. At the age of eleven or twelve, along with most Jewish children, I was instructed in the rudiments of Hebrew to prepare me for my Bar Mitzvah, the synagogue ceremony by which Jewish boys—and in modern times also girls—are formally recognized as full, adult members of the community. At that time and in that place, this normally implied only learning the alphabet, memorizing the tunes, and acquiring a sufficient command of the Hebrew script to read and chant the text without understanding it. in the normal course of events, no more than that was expected of pupils; no more was provided by teachers. But for me, another language, and more especially another script, offered new excitement, and led to the joyous discovery that Hebrew was not merely a kind of encipherment of prayers and rituals, to be memorized and recited parrotfashion. It was a language with a grammar, which one could actually learn like the Latin or French that I was learning at school—or rather, like both of them at the same time, since Hebrew was at once a classical and a modern language. By good fortune, I had a teacher who could respond to my childish enthusiasm, and it was he who helped me find my way on one of the two paths that led to my subsequent career—the fascination with exotic languages.

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