Gertrude Bell’s Arabian Diaries: Personal Romance or British Imperialist Quest?

By Issa J. Boullata

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), the well-known English traveler, archaeologist, and political agent, is perhaps more famous in the annals of British imperialism for her role in molding the post-WWI politics of Mesopotamia in 1921, bringing Faysal to the throne of Iraq, and later, as Oriental secretary to the British High Commissioner in Baghdad, reporting to her government in London on the Iraqi domestic, political, and societal affairs she tried to influence. But these achievements built on her activities in the previous two or three decades which, in their own right, were as daring and adventurous, as politically astute, and socially uncommon among women of her time as the activities of her subsequent Iraqi period. Rosemary O’Brien, an editor and retired freelance journalist now living in Princeton, NJ, has put historians in her debt by editing Gertrude Bell’s previously unpublished Arabian diaries of 1913-1914, housed in the Robinson Library at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; O’Brien has thus given readers a glimpse of this remarkable woman’s past.

Mustafa Khalifa’s ‘The Shell’ Latest Example of Literature Offering Insight of Syrian Ordeal

Forthcoming in Al Jadid
Al Jadid Staff

A mere glance at the most notorious prisons in the world, Assad’s Tadmur moves to the forefront, ranking 2nd on a list of the 10 worst prisons. This is the prison which “hosted” Mustafa Khalifa, the author of “The Shell” for more than 13 years, and which Fawaz Azem reviews for the next issue of Al Jadid.

Nostalgia for a Lost Damascus Leads Native Son into Danger in New Thriller

In his latest novel, “Sophia,” Syrian-German author Rafik Schami takes readers on a journey from Beirut and Heidelberg to Rome and Damascus through the eyes of Salman, the son of Sophia, the novel’s namesake, who is a beautiful Christian woman who had recently left her Muslim lover, Karim, to marry Yusuf Baladi, a rich Damascene Christian goldsmith. The story follows Salman’s trail as he flees Syria to Lebanon after accidentally wounding a police officer in an armed revolt to topple the dictatorship.

Experience as Essence: A Review of "Al Wallaah" by Syrian Novelist Hanna Mina

Fatme Sharafeddine Hassan

Al-Wallaah (The Flame that Lights the Way)
By Hanna Mina
Dar Al Adab, 1990

Hanna Mina wrote "Al-Wallaah" in 1989 and published it a year later (Beirut: Dar Al Adab). The major focus of the novel is the lesson that experience is the essence of life. The main character, Farah Al-Makhzumi, a naive and shy 17-year-old, learns this truth after a long struggle with himself and the people surrounding him.


New Book Examines Middle East ‘Post Americana’: Twilight of U.S. Cultural Influence

D.W. Aossey

After the American Century: The Ends of U. S. Culture in the Middle East
By Brian T. Edwards
Columbia University Press, 2015

It’s been said that a single aspiration connects all Middle Eastern people; to eat at McDonalds and shop at Wal-Mart, just like everyone else. Exaggeration? Maybe. But the comparison captures an obvious truth: that American attitudes and ideals have been disproportionately popular in the region for decades. “After the American Century” by author Brian T. Edwards, on the other hand, offers the counterargument that technology has and will continue to change this paradigm.

Prescient Book Calls Attention to Consequences of Sunni Diaspora

Lynne Rogers

Eclipse of the Sunnis, Power, Exile and Upheaval in the Middle East
By Deborah Amos
Public Affairs, 2010

Only four years after its publication and a drastically changed landscape, reading Deborah Amos’ “Eclipse of the Sunnis, Power, Exile and Upheaval in the Middle East,” will give readers a chilling sense of futility towards the impending signs of violence that politicians either conveniently overlooked or malevolently exaggerated to their advantage. With the American Occupation of Iraq, Amos, an award winning journalist, has set off to record the “the mass departure” of Iraqis to Damascus, Amman and Beirut. For each destination, she juxtaposes the political machinations behind the public rhetoric with a compilation of personal stories whose tragedies directly result from these power shifts.

Book Offers Oral Histories of Five Diverse Egyptian Men

Caroline Seymour-Jorn

Shahaama: Five Egyptian Men Tell Their Stories
By Nayra Atiya
Syracuse University Press, New York, 2016

Nayra Atiya has compiled a fascinating selection of the life stories of five Egyptian men belonging to a variety of sub-cultural, socio-economic and religious backgrounds. She conducted the interviews during the period from the late 1970s to the early 1980s with men who appear to have been born between the 1940s and the 1950s. Each life history provides details about the men’s childhoods, educations and adult lives during the period from the early decades of the Republic through the early Mubarak period, with these oral histories reflecting a great deal about the many socio-economic and political changes that accompanied those decades.


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