Friday, August 04, 2006

The Dream Palace of the Arabs

I am currently reading "The Dream Palace of the Arabs," a book by Fouad Ajami. Ajami was born in Lebanon and moved to the United States in 1963, when he was 18 years old. Here's an excerpt from page 120 where Ajami presents the life of Arab literary critic Adonis:
[Adonis's] uncluttered prose and haunting poetry secured him a preeminent place in the literary life of [Beirut]. In his boyhood, he had been tutored by his father in the Quran and Islamic mysticism and history, but he had a deep interest in Christian symbolism and thought as well, and Lebanon was an ideal place for him. He made his way to St. Joseph University in East Beirut, an educational institution established by the Jesuits in 1875. (This university was the Jesuits' and Francophiles' answer to the American University of Beirut and its blend of Anglo-Saxon education and Arab nationalism.) From there, a scholorship took him to Sorbonne, where he indulged his passion for French letters and culture. He saw no contradiction between his lifelong interest in Islamic sources and tradition and his love of French culture. He had never been biased against Western thought, he was to write in a literary autobiography. He dismissed "race and blood" as the defining forces in Arab and Islamic history and as the sources of Arab identity. He was a child of the catacombs, a minoritarian; he would not indulge a narrow, radical definition of home, culture, and hearth.
Fouad Ajami has written a book about Iraq titled, "The Foreigner's Gift," which was published just last month.