Monday, June 23, 2014


The death of Fouad Ajami will hardly be noticed in the Arab world.  His despair regarding the path which the autocratic Arab leaders have chosen became the hallmark of his impressive intellectual legacy.  The current turmoil in the Middle East acts like an echo chamber for his ideas.  He shared with an other Arab scholar, the late Edward Said, a deep melancholy rooted in almost contradictory but not exclusive readings of a sad tale.

I read Ajami's "The Dream Palace of the Arabs" in Cairo.  The capital of Egypt and of the Arab world was the ideal place to come to terms with his bitter remembrances. Like Cairo, his memory overwhelms but cannot repair all that which is broken.  As soon as hope appears it gets lost.  His political comments were like himself, all nuanced but unforgiving at the core.

The world will miss this unique Arab voice that enchanted like a Sufi chant.  The Arabs have lost a man in exile who spoke, paradoxically perhaps, a language which still tried to reach for the heights while the Arab landscape heads for what is becoming in Fouad Ajami's words:  a journey into "the tribal, the atavistic and the clannish."

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