THE MUSLIM DISCOVERY OF EUROPE

A leading Orientalist examines Muslim perceptions of Europe from the Arab conquests through the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt, some 1200 years—and, in the aggregate, condemns Muslims for failing to see and value the West as Westerners do. Drawing on diverse Arab, Turkish, and Persian writings, Lewis (The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Middle East and the West) defines the practical and intellectual limits to Muslim knowledge of Europe in chapters on language, intermediaries, and scholarship; then—re religion, economic relations, government and justice, science and techology, cultural life, and social mores—he proceeds to show the paucity of timely and accurate information about Europe available even to Muslim elites. In recording the curious observations of his sources, Lewis expands on an argument from his earlier works: in contrast to their European counterparts, and to their great disadvantage, Middle Eastern Islamic societies had little interest in learning about their millenial rival. Contributory factors, in Lewis' view, were religious prohibition and contempt for a super-ceded religion; the cultural superiority of Islam in the Middle Ages, plus its military power and economic self-sufficiency; and the difficulties encountered by those few Muslims who ventured into Europe. Only with the defeats of the 17th and 18th centuries did the Ottoman Empire acknowledge Western progress and, through observation and instruction, seek the sources of Western strength. Lewis' clear, forceful prose and an introductory chapter on Islamic-European relations from the 7th to the early 19th century make unfamiliar material accessible to nonspecialists. The book does, moreover, provide something of a historical framework for understanding contemporary Islamic reactions against Westernization. But the vast time-span fails to do justice to periods of varying intake and outthrust; the underlying thesis fails to explain the varying response of different Islamic societies to Westernization; pre-modern developments fail to account for the intensity of today's animus/attraction. Lewis has been severely criticized—most prominently, by Edward Said in Orientalism (1978)—for his assumptions about the inferiority of Islam. In form and content, this new book is similarly vulnerable.

Pub Date: June 21, 1982

ISBN: 0393321657

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1982

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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