When I entered the American library in Heidelberg this morning, I saw a stack of books on a stand that had a label stuck on it which read “Topic of the month : War & the Middle East”. This was a new practice – there had not been any ‘topics of the month’ earlier – and it was clearly welcome since it brought under one shelf books relating to a specific theme, but not necessarily pertaining to a specific category in the library. ( I wonder if library search catalogues offer methods to search the title database along such orthogonal directions ).
I recognized a few titles I had seen earlier in the library. Most others were new, and one among these was a book by Bernard Lewis, an author whose books on the Middle East I had come across before. This book was about a change, and looked into what brought about the change. The change the book talked about was the decline of the Islamic empire from the heights it had reached in the medieval ages, from the perspective of the impact western civilizations ( armies, societies and cultures ) had upon the Middle East.
The preface of the book contained the following text :
“This book was already in page proof when the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington took place on September 11 2001. It does not therefore deal with them, nor with their immediate causes and after-effects. It is however related to these attacks, examining not what happened and what followed, but what went before – the longer sequence and larger pattern of events, ideas, and attitudes that preceded and in some measure produced them.”
I picked up the title “What went wrong ( Western impact and Middle Eastern response )”. It now appears on the Currently Reading list.