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On “Letters from Baghdad”

What Gertrude Bell’s Letters Remind Us About the Founding of Iraq

Elias Muhanna | NewYorker.com (Culture Desk)

I first encountered the work of the British traveller, archeologist, and spy Gertrude Bell many years ago, while hunting in the archives for a Carmelite priest named Père Anastase-Marie de Saint-Élie, an obscure figure in the history of Arabic lexicography. “He’s a jolly monk, an Arab from the Lebanon straight out of Chaucer all the same and with a clear eye fixed on the main chance; very learned in his own tongue, he speaks and writes French like a Frenchman,” Bell wrote of Anastase, in a letter to her father on November 9, 1917. “I like him none the worse for his being in spite of his cloth, I’m persuaded, a rogue.” (keep reading)

Discussion

One thought on “On “Letters from Baghdad”

  1. Elias, great work, I really enjoyed reading this. Oh Gertrude, a “fine thing” it never was and never will be.

    Posted by Vulcan | June 15, 2017, 12:48 am

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