A highly knowledgeable history that is helpful in explaining recent developments in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.




Sociological/historical study of the “two leading social movements in the Arab world,” Islamism and nationalism.

Gerges (Contemporary Middle East Studies/London School of Economics; ISIS: A History, 2016, etc.) examines the rise of revolutionary Islamism as a reaction to Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s brand of socialism. The rise of that fundamentalist religious ideology, personified by the cleric and firebrand Sayyid Qutb, is not without its ironies, one of them the fact that Nasser and Qutb shared many ideas. However, each was personally ambitious, and when Nasser came to power, among his first acts was to rid Egypt of potentially rivalrous political parties, from the Marxists on the left to the Ikhwan, which morphed into the Muslim Brotherhood. None of the struggle was inevitable, but, as Gerges notes, the convoluted path taken by these two powerful and uncompromising men led to a profound breach that culminated in the often imprisoned Qutb’s execution in 1966 for allegedly plotting Nasser’s assassination. The following year, when Egypt was among the Arab powers to be humiliated in a war against Israel, Islamism gained new strength. Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, attempted to co-opt Ikhwan followers and was assassinated, while, later, Mohamed Morsi, president until his ouster in 2013, was an outright member of the Brotherhood. Gerges observes that Nasser’s pan-Arab ideology amounted to an anti-imperialism of a kind not seen in the region before, but that did not necessarily equate to anti-Westernism. “Nasser’s generation of anti-colonial nationalists deployed universal concepts of self-determination, popular sovereignty, popular democracy, resistance, and anti-hegemony as effective weapons,” he writes, whereas the Ikhwan counted the West among its enemies, subscribed to the notion of the clash of civilizations, and believed that constitutionalism was a foreign concept to be suppressed. The struggle continues today, with modern representatives of both Islamism and nationalism contending for leadership in what amounts to a regional cold war.

A highly knowledgeable history that is helpful in explaining recent developments in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-16788-6

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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


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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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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