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Literary asides

#28: July - Sept. 2006 (Non-Fiction)
MadArchitect

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Literary asides

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Given that we're all pretty avid readers, I thought that it might be a good idea to have a place to make note of some of the literary connections that we each pick out from the book. For instance, if someone has read any interesting books on Churchill, and they come across a line in the book that resonates or clashes with whatever they read in that book, they might make a note of it here.For another instance, I've read, and I'll bet some of you have read, a number of books that take place in or around the periods discussed in this book, and which can be connected with things written here. I might find occasions to bring up "The Four Feathers", for example.This can be a good way to flesh out our reading and find suggestions for further reading. Have fun with it.
J Seabolt

Re: Literary asides

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Ha! This isn't exactly what you had in mind in this thread, but I did think about David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia quite a bit while reading Fromkin. Been a few years since I last saw it but I believe the early portions of the movie depicted the stuffy life of the deskbound Foreign Office bureaucrats in Cairo, and I was reminded of that by the early portions of Fromkin's book.
MadArchitect

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Re: Literary asides

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Yeah, we could probably have quite an extensive discussion of both "Lawrence of Arabia" and T.E. Lawrence's own book "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom", discussing in particular how they differ and compare to Fromkin's book. Fromkin himself mentions Lawrence in the introduction(?), mostly to dismiss his account as a romanticization and mythologizing of actual events. But I think Lawrence's account probably counter-balances its limited viewpoint by virtue of serving as an immanently readable first-hand account.
MadArchitect

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Re: Literary asides

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In Chapter 3, iv. Fromkin quotes the assessment of John Buchan, who would later become wartime Director of Information for the British government, but who is likely better known to most of us as the man who wrote the novel upon which Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps" was based. The quote -- which Fromkin provides as an example of British misunderstanding of Middle Eastern politics -- is another of Buchan's novels, "Greenmantle". Is it happens, I run across copies of "Greenmantle" on a regular basis, but I've never gotten around to reading it. Has anyone here ever read it? Any reviews? It's an adventure story, and Fromkin suggests that it starts by misassessing the Middle East, but it might be interesting to read it as a group and compare it to Fromkin's more meticulous historical assessment.
J Seabolt

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John Buchan's Greenmantle is available online via Project Gutenberg.This is a quote from it:Sir Walter lay back in an arm-chair and spoke to the ceiling. It was the best story, the clearest and the fullest, I had ever got of any bit of the war. He told me just how and why and when Turkey had left the rails. I heard about her grievances over our seizure of her ironclads, of the mischief the coming of the _Goeben_ had wrought, of Enver and his precious Committee and the way they had got a cinch on the old Turk. When he had spoken for a bit, he began to question me.'You are an intelligent fellow, and you will ask how a Polish adventurer, meaning Enver, and a collection of Jews and gipsies should have got control of a proud race. The ordinary man will tell you that it was German organization backed up with German money and German arms. You will inquire again how, since Turkey is primarily a religious power, Islam has played so small a part in it all. The Sheikh-ul-Islam is neglected, and though the Kaiser proclaims a Holy War and calls himself Hadji Mohammed Guilliamo, and says the Hohenzollerns are descended from the Prophet, that seems to have fallen pretty flat. The ordinary man again will answer that Islam in Turkey is becoming a back number, and that Krupp guns are the new gods. Yet - I don't know. I do not quite believe in Islam becoming a back number.'Any of those phrases sound familiar?
MadArchitect

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Another literary reference crops up in chapter 8, A.E.W. Housman's "The Four Feathers", in which Kitchener of Khartoum makes a cameo. As it so happens, I finished "The Four Feathers only about a month ago, although I didn't realize at the time that Kitchener was a historical figure, so I didn't pay him as much attention as I probably should have. It's an entertaining, chimerical novel, if anyone's interested -- compelling, but not as adventure-oriented as you might expect, given the way its touted.
MadArchitect

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Chapter 10, section IV depicts Kitchener's promise to the Arabs to protect them against external invasion in the event that they revolt against the Sultan, and the subsequent expansion of the promise to include some aide in revolting. If I'm not mistaken, this is a major piece of the background that enables the story told in T.E. Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and David Lean's adaptation "Lawrence of Arabia". Lawrence came into contact with Feisel, et al, as part of the British promise for aide, and took the promise to unexpected ends under his own impetus. It's fun picking up on these historical connections that situate the books and movies I know to the broader context of the past.
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Not precisely a literary aside, but I thought I'd mention this since it reminds me of some of the topics that we're bound to run across in this discussion.A friend of mine recently loaned me the box set of DVDs from the first season of Sci-Fi's remake of "Battlestar Galactica", and it struck me that one of the subtextual currents could be read as pertaining to various elements of the Middle East.In particular, there's a great deal of resonance between the disenfranchised human population and the Jewish plight leading up to the creation of Israel. They were both fleeing from persecution and seeking a near-mythical homeland for protection.And I think there's some room to build a kind of analogy between the Cylons as the prodigal "children" of humanity and modern Middle Easterns the prodigal children of the Imperial West -- particularly given the historical wrangling Fromkin describes. Whether or not the show will play out that analogy, I don't yet know, but it struck me very heavily watching the first hour or so that the makers had re-envisioned the old sci-fi classic with an eye towards the sort of panic and disillusionment Americans and Brits have felt since the WTC/Pentagon attacks and the London subway bombings.
minority mandate

literary references

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"Gallapoli" was, as I recall, an excellent film. And, of course Winston Churchill wrote much, much of which was self-serving, on the background of this campaign in his autobiographies. "Dreadnaught" is a popular naval history of WWI which has detailed information on the battle for the Dardanells.
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