4th April 2011 At Noura RestaurantThe British Lebanese AssociationEvening of Literary Excellencewith Dr Philip Manselauthor of Levant, Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean&Ted & Andrée Féghali Gortonauthors of Lebanon through writers' eyes
B I O G R A P H I E SPhilip ManselPhilip Mansel is a historian of France and the Ottoman Empire. He has written histories of Constantinople and nineteenth-century Paris, as well as biographies of Louis XVIII and the Prince de Ligne. Six of his books have been translated into French. He writes for the Art Newspaper, the Times Literary Supplement and The Spectator. While writing Levant, he lived in Beirut and Istanbul. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research and a member of the committee of the Chateau de Versailles research centre. Levant is a book of cities. It describes Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut when they were windows on the world, escapes from nationality and tradition, centres of wealth, pleasure and freedom. Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut challenge stereotypes. They were both cosmopolitan cities and centres of nationalism. Using unpublished family papers, Philip Mansel describes their colourful, contradictory history, from the beginning of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century to their decline in the mid twentieth century. Smyrna was burnt; Alexandria Egyptianised; Beirut lacerated by civil war. His latest book Levant is the first history in English of these cities in the modern age. It is also a challenge from history. It is about ourselves; it shows how Muslims, Christians and Jews have lived together in cities. Levantine compromises, putting deals before ideals, pragmatism before ideology, made these cities work, until states reclaimed them for nationalism. Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut have a message for today.Ted Gorton and Andrée Féghali Gorton. Husband and wife team Ted Gorton and Andrée Féghali Gorton recently published an anthology of writing about Lebanon (see comments below), from 1800 BC to 2006: Lebanon: through writers' eyes, (published by Eland Books. London). Ted Gorton came early to Oriental studies, spending formative years in Turkey where his father was the US military attaché, and studying at the American University of Beirut in the 1960's. He later took a doctorate in Arabic Studies from Oxford and lectured at St Andrews University, from where he was lured away to Arabia, spending 25 years in the oil business before returning to his first love, Arabic poetry. He has published extensively on Hispano-Arabic poetry in scholarly journals as well as preparing two collections, Andalucia and Arabia, for Eland's Poetry of Place series. His co-author on the Lebanon volume is his Lebanese wife, the archaeologist Andrée Féghali, who brings additional passion, knowledge and languages to this uniquely qualified editorial team. "The earliest entry in this anthology, almost 4,000 years old, from an Egyptian named Sinuhe, tells of conflict he is in exile from his homeland after the death of his master, the Pharaoh. The second entry, some 800 years later, tells of an Egyptian trading mission looking for cedar to build a ceremonial barque for Amun, the great god of Luxor. Trade and conflict have been the two defining themes of Lebanon ever since, from Ramses II to Napoleon, from the death of Prime Minister Hariri to the opening of the Beirut Farmers Market.However curious the earlier writings, the anthology becomes more fascinating as it moves into the modern era. Lady Hester Stanhope, niece and hostess of Pitt the Younger, emerges as a star of the nineteenth century, both for her writing and for what was written about her. An eccentric who had completely misjudged the nature of the Bedouin when she set herself up as queen of the desert city of Palmyra, she understood enough about the warring Druze to live for many years in ever-reducing circumstances in the Lebanon mountains.Others found the country more difficult to see the French writer Lamartine peered at Mount Lebanon through the mists; but T. E. Lawrence saw it, as so much else, with stunning clarity and his assessments were unerringly right:Beirut, he thought, would have been ‘bastard French’ without its American college and Greek harbour, and would have been no more than the doorway to Syria had it not been for its intellectual freedom and its wealth."
R E V I E W SPraise for LEVANT "The strengths of the book are colossal. Mansel's knowledge of the history and culture of these places is encyclopaedic… To anyone who has read Mansel's Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, it will be sufficient to say: read this one too. To anyone who has not, I can only say: read both of them." Sunday Telegraph "Highly recommended." New Statesman "...Instead of composing an elegy on a once powerful civilisation, Mansel has given the Levantine world its chronicle, and restored its weight in history..." Spectator"Highly enjoyable and intricately worked account of three great Mediterranean ports" Economist "I could scarcely put down this magnificent book, with its galloping narrative, its worldly analysis, sparkling anecdote…" Financial Times "With sober judgement but passionate feeling, Mansel has produced a work of formidable scholarship and subtlety, rich in colour, sights, personalities and horrifyingly abundant incident." TLS.Thrilling…brilliantly organised along both chronological and geographical lines…A major achievement....what gives it special virtue, to my mind, are the author's verve and his attention to detail, to the personal dimension Prof. John Rodenbeck, Association for the Study…of the Near East Bulletin 'The victory, the defeat, the magnificence, the squalor, the cruelty and the tolerance of the Ottoman years are all recorded there, Constantinople is one of those cities to which I always long to return, and the longing grows on every page' The Sunday Telegraph'Marvellous ... the experience of the whole city grows with the book ... you always feel close to the beat of Constantinople's raffish and mysterious heart' The Observer 'A happy blend of scholarship and panache ... If you have visited Constantinople, read it: if not, buy it before you go' The Evening StandardPraise for Lebanon: through writers' eyes"What better than to explore this teeming Levantine country in the company of T. E. Lawrence and Colin Thubron, Kahlil Gibran and Homer, Hester Stanhope and Amin Maalouf, Mark Twain and Gustave Flaubert." "Lebanon has more writers, publishers, bookshops and readers than the rest of the Arab-speaking world put together. It also has a passionately loyal diaspora of millions of exiles always interested in reading about their homeland." "While scholarly in research, like all Eland's through writers' eyes series, this volume bubbles over with enthusiasm, wit and fascinating period detail" The compilers of this collection, one Lebanese-born, both Beirut-educated, have cast wide for these fragments, which they have fashioned into chronological chapters, culminating in writing by the likes of Gérard de Nerval and Flaubert, Mark Twain and Pierre Loti. These are followed by brilliant sections on identities and war. The obvious chroniclers of the country¹s more recent tragedy are included, among them the long-term hostage Brian Keenan and the journalist Robert Fisk. But some of the more powerful words come from less-familiar Lebanese voices, from writers such as the poetNadia Tueni, who recognized that ‘We did not know how to read the omens / in those dead birds in the bottoms of their cages’, and the West Beiruti Mishka Moujabbar Mourani, whose elegiac stories heard in a fragrant garden capture some of the spirit of the post-war city.Anthony Sattin
On 4th April 2011 At Noura Restaurant, The British Lebanese Associationis held anEvening of Literary Excellence with Dr Philip Mansel author of Levant, Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean and Ted & Andrée Féghali Gorton authors of Lebanon through writers' eyes At Noura Restaurant, London by kind invitation of Mr Nader Abou The evening began with a brief talk from the three authors followed by a supper, dessert and coffee after which a panel discussion was held with lively questions taken from the floor. The evening ended with a flurry of book signings.