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Shvoong Home>Books>Biographies>Quadaffi, The Desert Mystic Review

Quadaffi, The Desert Mystic

Book Review   by:KimHamil     Original Author: George Tremlett
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Guadaffi, The Desert Mystic is a superb read by George Tremlett who visited Libya in 1990 to research for this book. Prior to Gaddafi, George Tremlett had written 25 books on literature, politics, and history. The author served as a member of Parliament in Britain in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The book was published by Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. in 1993.

A class I took on the Middle East in mid 80’s might as well had been about Italian politics or Russian history and ensured my disinterest for years. Then, all of a sudden, I became interested in the Middle East at some point in 1999, well before 9/11. I wanted to find out for myself if there was any basis to a generally low opinion Arabs had in NYC at the time.

I have read selectively on the topic since realizing more and more how little is open for preview from afar and how difficult it is to find reliable sources on the Middle East that would focus on people, their daily lives and culture as opposed to wars, political parties, and so forth. I find it unbelievable that 6 long years after the war began military is scrambling for language experts and we are at a loss as far as our inter-cultural understanding of each other as people to which the huge tidal immigration wave from the Middle East into Europe has yet to contribute.

There is a mind-boggling diversity within the Middle East itself. We tend to dismiss anything Middle Eastern as Arab whereas the Arabs are not a unified group of people by any means, not even linguistically, and it isn’t like it has been Arab influences solely that have shaped the Middle East. Neither are the Arabs united in terms of their religious identification: not all Arabs are Muslims, to some, religion does not matter and there might be some whose religious understanding has been questioned by their own. Just like in the West or elsewhere, wealth is a huge divisive factor between people and nations.

Out of all the books I’ve read on the Middle East, George Tremlett’s book was one of the funniest and most enjoyable. It is a great read and if one could replace every instance of Gaddafi’s name with “Don Smith” it would make a bestseller adventure.

There had been a time when Gaddafi had rather poor opinion in the West if he was not outright vilified. All of Kaddafi’s alleged shortcomings get ample treatment by George Tremlett but to begin with chronologically you might see a picture of a precocious youngster from a dessert who through his zeal for education and activism rose to transform Libya from a tribal kingdom to a modern state.

Reading George Bush Jr. old paperback biography made me glad he was re-elected even though the biography didn’t intend perhaps to be complimentary and despite the fact that it pained me when G.B. was first elected to office. But thanks to that biography mostly I still have hopes that somehow G.B. will be able to turn the current situation around by the end of his term.

Gaddafi’s biography concerns itself mostly with Gaddafi’s early years and rise to power in Libya he didn‘t voluntarily signed up for. Gaddafi has done everything he could to avoid becoming a leader looking to others for guidance. He had been an activist and a revolutionary in his own right with a lot of followers yet did not consider himself best choice for the top position until later.

“Gaddafi is hardly a wicked man, no evil genius <…>. He falls into none of the conventional molds into which the West usually enjoys casting its villains. His achievements have been understated, his character distorted, with Britain and America <…> relying too much upon low-level intelligence and poor diplomatic advice.”






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Published: November 09, 2007   
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