THOSE I HAVE KNOWN by Anwar el-Sadat


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At his death in 1981, Egypt's President Sadat was recording stories of his public life for publication in the party newspaper he had founded--to teach ""the youth of Egypt. . . something of their recent history."" The 13 selections do have a didactic YA ring; but in their simple emotionalism, they also sound like Sadat. (In Search of Identity, you may recall, was his self-portrait specifically for Americans.) Why was Sadat the only leader who welcomed the fallen shah of Iran? ""Encounters with the Shah"" notes that the two were born and graduated from military college the same years and contrasts their position in life; their ""paths first crossed,"" he later reminded the shah, when the shah reviewed an Egyptian military parade (preparatory to marrying an Egyptian princess). At the 1969 Islamic summit, where Sadat represented Nasser, he softened a reproach to the shah by reciting a verse in Persian--to the consternation of his Egyptian colleagues (who doubted his language competence) and the applause of the shah. After Sadat succeeded Nasser, he and the shah exchanged visits and normalized relations between their countries. And when Nasser needed oil during the 1973 October/Yom Kippur War, only the shah came through--not the Arabs. Only the shah, too, supported his ""peace initiative"": another incident ""I can never forget or ignore."" Added to gratitude and loyalty, perhaps, was the reversal of their fortunes, peasant boy succoring Persian emperor; at any rate, the moral tale has layered, personal and political meanings. Similarly, Sadat salutes Saudi Arabia's King Faisal for ""nobility and chivalry,"" and shrewdness: had Faisal not told him, prior to the 1973 war, ""let it be a long battle,"" the oil weapon ""would not have become a factor."" Khrushchev is scored for ""rancor"" (with some odd, behind-the-scenes tales); Tito is faulted for hosting Nixon rather than attending the funeral of his good friend and great admirer, Nasser; the Arabs are reproached generally for issuing warnings to Israel, and refusing to negotiate directly. There are inside-Egypt pronouncements too. Nothing earthshaking, but nothing that isn't somehow curious or illuminating.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Continuum