The Closed Circle: An Interpretation Of The Arabs
By David Pryce-Jones
Harper & Row, 1989, 464 pp.
This interpretation will not win many accolades among Arab readers. The author states that he is "no Arabist, no orientalist, no social or political scientist, or indeed specialist of any kind," but only a writer trying to make sense of what he has seen in several years of personal experience in the Middle East. He finds that Arab political culture is dominated by tribal and religious concepts of honor, shame and "power challenging" among a small elite, inevitably producing regimes of personal despotism, violence and repression. His sketches of Nasser, Sadat, Arafat, Assad and others, vividly presented with no modifying clauses, illustrate the theme. The book has many keen and perceptive things to say and is right in challenging the judgment of Westerners who have misread Arabs (and Turks and Iranians), expecting them to act like Europeans. But the author is himself a European, and many of his judgments are also open to challenge.