A Rage for Order

A Rage for Order

The Middle East in Turmoil, From Tahrir Square to ISIS

Book - 2016
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A New York Times Notable Book of 2016
One of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2016, Publishers Weekly
One of the Best Books of 2016, NPR
Winner of the 2017 Lionel Gelber Prize
One of 20 Notable Reads from 2016, Mother Jones
Finalist for the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Current Interest
Silver Medal Winner of the 2017 Arthur Ross Book Award

In 2011, a wave of revolution spread through the Middle East as protesters demanded an end to tyranny, corruption, and economic decay. From Egypt to Yemen, a generation of young Arabs insisted on a new ethos of common citizenship. Their bravery and idealism stirred observers around the world and led militant jihadis to worry that they had been superseded by a new and peaceful uprising.

Five years later, the utopian aspirations of 2011 have darkened. In one country after another, brutal terrorists and dictators have risen to the top as old divides reemerge and deepen. Egypt has become a more repressive police state than ever before; Libya, Syria, and Yemen endure civil war; and the extremists of ISIS have spread chaos and carnage across the region and beyond it.

A Rage for Order tracks the tormented legacy of what was once called the Arab Spring. Writing with bold literary ambition, the distinguished New York Times correspondent Robert F. Worth introduces a riveting cast of characters. We meet a Libyan rebel who must decide whether to kill the torturer who murdered his brother; a Yemeni farmer who lives in servitude to a poetry-writing, dungeon-operating chieftain; two young Syrian women whose close friendship devolves into enmity as their sects go to war; and an Egyptian doctor who is caught between his loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and his hopes for a new, tolerant democracy. In a final chapter,Worth tells the moving story of the two eighty-something statesmen whose unlikely camaraderie allowed Tunisia to escape its neighbors' worst fates.

Combining dramatic storytelling with an original analysis of the Arab world today, A Rage for Order captures the psychic and actual civil wars raging throughout the Middle East and explains how the dream of an Arab renaissance gave way to a new age of discord.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780374252946
Characteristics: 259 pages ;,24 cm.


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Sep 13, 2016

A new line was being drawn, with Islamists on one side and their opponents on the other.

Sep 13, 2016

We are facing Saudi funded terrorism, just like you.

Sep 13, 2016

We don't even understand ourselves.

Sep 13, 2016

... the voice of the revolution is higher than the voice of bullets.


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Dec 03, 2016

This book is the story of the Arab Spring told from the perspectives of real people in several different countries: Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Tunisia. Hearing the personal stories of individuals makes it all much more real. The author was there during these uprisings (and the aftermaths), and his descriptions are gripping.

What impressed me most was how disparate groups came together for a common cause in each of these countries, with great joy, almost euphoria. Sadly, it did not last, and struggles for power have deepened the divisions among various sects even more. I am reading everything lately through the lens of what is happening here, and the divisions in our own country that have been fueled by the presidential election campaign. I used to think that the Middle East was perplexing with so many factions hating each other for what seemed to be trivial reasons. Not any more.

The story of the excitement of the revolution in Tahrir Square in Egypt was gripping; it is tragic to see it all fade away in the wake of military power. Civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen are heart-breaking.

For me personally, the most compelling story was about the close friendship of two young women in Syria in two different sects. As the situation in Syria escalates, they start to view each other differently, with more suspicion. For a while, their friendship can survive this, but ultimately, the relationship becomes impossible.

There was also a story about a female doctor in Syria who risked her life and profession to give medical assistance to people in the revolution. Frankly, it is all too easy to imagine myself and people I know in these situations. Many of the Syrian refugees feared by some Americans as terrorists are real people like this, who have been driven out of their country by the violence and uproar of civil war.

While there are uplifting parts of this book, there are more discouraging parts. I must admit this is not the most cheerful book! But it is well written, and will give you an idea of what it is like to be a resident of these Middle East countries in these turbulent times.

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