AUGUST 21, 2021
A Nobel laureate and a Pulitzer winner.
Two books with their fair share of advocates and detractors. But a discerning reader will understand both the praise and the criticism.
Naipaul traveled to Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia for six months to examine the heightening Islamic fundamentalism in countries with a pre-Islamic history but have become theocratic states.
Brooks, stationed in Cairo for six years as a journalist, explored Egypt, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, to ask a specific question: “𝘐𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘮 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯. 𝘚𝘰 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘔𝘶𝘴𝘭𝘪𝘮 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥?” “𝘈𝘯𝘺 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘰 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘪𝘥𝘥𝘭𝘦 𝘌𝘢𝘴𝘵, 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘶𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘪𝘵 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵,” she observed. And this is what the world especially fears in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
I read the Naipaul earlier in August but wasn’t quite sure what to say about it openly. Naipaul’s disregard for political correctness is sometimes shocking, but his directness can also be refreshing. Brooks’ courage is admirable and her accounts overwhelming; and made more fascinating by personal interviews with Salman Rushdie, Naguib Mahfouz, the Ayatollah Khomeini’s daughter Zahra, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan. Whether the reader ends up appreciating the scrutiny or not, one has to admit that both authors have written only the truth derived from their interaction with the people.
One was published in 1981, the other in 1995. Some information is dated because much has changed in the world since then, but much hasn’t either. What remains unchanged in the matters discussed is the reason why these two books are still valuable and pertinent.