Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kingmaker; The Invention of the Modern Middle East by Judy Joyce

Whether Shareen Blair Brysac is writing about "Resisting Hitler" or Karl Meyer is collaborating with Ms. Brysac in penning "Tournament of Shadows" revealing the classical struggles for Central Asia between the British, Americans and Russians, both authors repeat their adept ability to tell a story. Even more worthy of recommending is their style of remaining engaging and historically accurate without the distraction of taking sides. As with the old TV series featuring cop-extraordinaire, Jack Webb, the authors portend to deliver and do succeed with ‘The facts, Ma’am. Just the facts" and still keep it interesting.

The greater contributions this book offers to our literary shelf are the reminders Brysac and Meyers impart when revisiting quite a bit we forget. We learn a lot. Feminists can rejoice in the hefty credit given to Geraldine Bell’s contributions to the forming of the modern Middle East just as assuredly as action hero and romance fans can take in the adventures of Laurence of Arabia. Many a reader will be surprised to learn that origin of the Middle East we know today can include this chance for a clearer understanding of how that came to be. New facts about Saladin emerge along the way. Now who can ask for more than that?

And so it is that what makes this book such a good read is the historical lineage of the twelve colorful and charismatic Brits and Americans who meddled in the affairs of the Middle East from Laurence of Arabia to Paul Wolfowitz with Geraldine Bell in between. These interlopers may be viewed as marvelous, meddlesome or downright mean yet they were instrumental in the path of intrigue that forms the hubris of how things got to be the way they are today.

In that the Victoria-Edwardian Age is a bit before my time and I can’t say I’ve ever lingered around information involving the British Counsel-general to Egypt, I hope to be forgiven for my hitherto lack lustre interest in Lord Cromer. It seems with our current attention to all things Middle East, we need to know and understand much more about this man who set so much of it in motion including the principal of indirect rule. Oh, and those French! They are never far away.

As Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs in New York introduced the authors to an audience of book enthusiasts on October 29, 2008, JoAnn Meyers stated, and I wholeheartedly agree:


This is a book that encapsulates a century worth of misjudgement, overreach and catastrophe. But, more than an historical story of a region that for a long time has had the ability to draw attention, upset international politics, and still fascinate so many, it is a cautionary tale.

1 comment:

Taru said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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