THE INNER SEA by Robert Fox


The Mediterranean and Its People
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 In his preface, veteran British journalist Fox expresses distaste for ``that otiose and overrated literary form, the finely written travelogue''--and certainly this earnest work evokes few of the sensate pleasures and chance discoveries that enliven that genre. Instead, it's a rather dry and often disturbing chronicle, drawn from journeys taken between 1984 and 1987, of the historical development, present turmoil, and likely future upheavals locked within each of the restless nations bordering the Mediterranean. ``The Mediterranean is an untidy place with an untidy past,'' Fox says. Historically divided into small, often warring independent tribes that were forced into political nation-states only relatively recently, the people of the Middle East, Yugoslavia, and Italy now appear increasingly determined to return to some version of their previous tribal structure. Fox cites as explanation for this collapse of confidence in the political status quo the increasing social and psychological strain of an exploding and increasingly young population in the southern Mediterranean countries (half the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza was under age 16 by 1990); an environmentally catastrophic increase in tourism (projected to rise from eighty million to two- hundred million annually by 2025) and in pollution from cargo ships and untreated human sewage; and current governments' demonstrated ineffectiveness in combating Mafia-style organized crime. Fox's conclusion--that the southern Mediterranean's ancient and often fanatical criminal organizations, religious cults, and other tribal units (most now armed with 20th-century weapons) are likely to spread as southern populations grow while the more prosperous northern populations shrink and get old--is disquieting, if hardly surprising. Bitter medicine: good for the reader, but not easy going down.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-394-57452-4
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993