Embers and Ashes
Memoirs of an Arab Intellectual
Hisham Sharabi; translated by Issa Boullata
5 1/4" x 8" • 186 pages
ISBN 9781566567022 • paperback • $15.00 •
"...eloquently depicts and critiques the experience of a generation of Arab intellectuals. Sharabi's attention to detail and his lack of sentimentality make it an engaging account of academia and Middle Eastern politics"
-- A-Hewar/The Arab American Dialog
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Hisham Sharabi (1927-2005) was a distinguished Palestinian intellectual and an outspoken critic of traditional Arab society and culture. Despite his wealthy family and his upbringing as a member of the privileged class, his conscious self-analysis after the 1967 Arab defeat by Israel led him to radically change his former bourgeois outlook on his society and its culture.
Written in a simple language, Embers and Ashes tells of Sharabi's childhood and boyhood in Palestine, his youth and initial political activism as a university student in Lebanon, and his life and education as a graduate student in the US. He brings his newly acquired self-analysis and sociocultural criticism to bear on the story of each of these phases. As a boy happily growing up in Palestine, he observes how he was unconsciously indoctrinated in the values of his wealthy class, despite the beautiful memories he retains of his early life. In Lebanon, he observes the same imposed values and especially the authoritarian attitudes of his Arab professors at the university and of the leadership of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party he joined (although he describes in chilling detail the lamentable manner in which the Party's leader, Antun Sa'adah, with whom he was on intimate terms, was put to death by the authorities of Lebanon after a plot and a summary trial). In the United States he appreciates the freedom that his American professors allowed him in forming his own views and learning to defend them; he forms his first romantic relationships; and he observes the unbecoming behavior of some Arab students-even as he and they all hear about debacles in far-off Palestine and the Arab world.
Although Sharabi wrote many books in English and Arabic expressing his insights into the flaws of Arab societal structure, culture, and politics, it is his autobiography, Embers and Ashes: Memoirs of an Arab Intellectual, published in Arabic in 1978, that offers a candid and poignant account of his own personal formation and development.
Hisham Sharabi was born in Jaffa, Palestine, in 1927 and studied philosophy for a BA (1947) at the American University of Beirut and an MA (1948) at the University of Chicago, then earned a Ph.D. (1953) in the history of culture also at the University of Chicago. A professor of history at Georgetown University in Washington, DC until his retirement in 1998, he also taught as a visiting professor at the American University of Beirut. He wrote extensively on the Arab world in English and Arabic. His works include Nationalism and Revolution in the Arab World (1966), Arab Intellectuals and the West: The Formative Phase 1875-1914 (1970), Introduction to the Study of Arab Society (1978), and Neopatriarchy: Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society (1988). He also edited the Journal of Palestine Studies and published a novel in Arabic. He died in Beirut in 2005.
Born in Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1929, Issa J. Boullata (Ph.D., University of London, 1969) is a former professor of Arabic literature at McGill University, Montreal. He is a literary scholar, critic, editor, and translator with many publications in English and Arabic. He has also published a novel in Arabic and a number of short stories in English, and edited several scholarly journals, including The Muslim World and Al-'Arabiyya, and guest-edited Oral Tradition: Arabic Oral Traditions (1989). He is currently contributing editor of Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature. His book Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought (1990) is an analysis of contemporary Arab thought, especially in the years following the June 1967 war in the Middle East.
"Embers and Ashes represents more than a simple autobiography. Powerfully invoking themes of independence, freedom and modernity, it constitutes part and parcel of the Arab national and cultural struggle since the renaissance of the nineteenth century. Beautifully translated into English by Issa Boullata... with his masterful rendition Professor Boullata has done a great service to world literature and to modern Arab culture, literature and thought."
--Bassam K. Frangieh, Banipal
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