Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present

Christian Sahner (Author)
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Description

As a civil war shatters a country and consumes its people, historian Christian C. Sahner offers a poignant account of Syria, where the past profoundly shapes its dreadful present. Among the Ruins blends history, memoir and reportage, drawing on the author's extensive knowledge of Syria in ancient, medieval, and modern times, as well as his experiences living in the Levant on the eve of the war and in the midst of the "Arab Spring." These plotlines converge in a rich narrative of a country in constant flux - a place renewed by the very shifts that, in the near term, are proving so destructive. Sahner focuses on five themes of interest to anyone intrigued and dismayed by Syria's fragmentation since 2011: the role of Christianity in society; the arrival of Islam; the rise of sectarianism and competing minorities; the emergence of the Ba'ath Party; and the current pitiless civil war. Among the Ruins is a brisk and illuminating read, an accessible introduction to a country with an enormously rich past and a tragic present. For anyone seeking to understand Syria, this book should be their starting point.

Product Details

Price
$27.95
Publisher
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
September 01, 2014
Pages
256
Dimensions
5.7 X 1.0 X 8.6 inches | 1.05 pounds
Language
English
Type
Hardcover
EAN/UPC
9780199396702
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Christian C. Sahner is an historian of the Middle East. He graduated from Princeton University and the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He is completing his doctorate at Princeton, focusing on the role of non-Muslims in Islamic societies. Sahner's writing has been published in The Times Literary Supplement and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

Reviews


"Among the Ruins is a veritable pleasure to read, despite the poignancy of its subject matter. Combining an account of its author's travels through a Syria now largely destroyed by the ravages of war with a reflection on the causes and course of the Syrian revolution which began in March 2011, the Baathist regime's ruthless response, and the country's subsequent descent into civil war, it is both elegantly written and judicious in its opinions. Informed by Christian Sahner's deep knowledge of classical and medieval history, eastern Christianity and Islam, and enlivened by his travel writer's eye for the telling detail, it will make a useful primer for those seeking to place Syria's current predicament in historical perspective." -- Andrew Arsan, University Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History, St John's College, Cambridge


"Among the Ruins is a uniquely vivid evocation of the past of Syria and a prescient record of its present state. Deeply humane and drawing on subjects from all walks of life, Sahner has a gift for presenting them against a past that is as varied and as ancient as the country itself. We are brought to the edge of the precipice over which, alas, a magnificently diverse society appears to have stumbled. We will be both better informed and wiser for reading it." -- Peter Brown, Rollins Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton University


"Sahner's writing engages all the reader's senses without wasting a word. His precision keeps the story moving at breakneck speed, leaving the reader with essential insights while eliding potentially distracting factual minutiae. The combination is sheer brilliance. The book is especially impressive given the magnitude of Sahner's intellectual task and the grace with which he accomplishes it." -- Brock Dahl, The Witherspoon Institute


"With an academic expertise in late antiquity in the Middle East, Sahner gives even the seventh and eighth centuries important proximity. In light of the re-emergence of nihilistic and extremist language from the likes of the Islamic State, which promotes a distorted version of Islam's past, Sahner's history is all the more important." -- The Cairo Review


"This excellent little book, a mixture of 'deep' history and travelogue, is essential reading for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the current situation in Syria and the Middle East, beyond newspaper headlines." -- LSE Review of Books




"In his beautiful patchwork of recent experience and academic history, [Sahner] gives a truly original portrait of contemporary Syria without shirking the social problems, physical ugliness or political realities many Westerners often want to deny...Sahner gives a long historical arc, going back to pre-Islamic, Byzantine Syria, before going on to produce a moving and highly readable account of the country today. His close attention to the buildings and geography of Syria, together with accounts of his many friendships, bring the country into sharper focus than textual sources alone can do." -- The Times Literary Supplement


"Among the Ruins is a uniquely vivid evocation of the past of Syria and a prescient record of its present state. Deeply humane and drawing on subjects from all walks of life, Sahner has a gift for presenting them against a past that is as varied and as ancient as the country itself. We are brought to the edge of the precipice over which, alas, a magnificently diverse society appears to have stumbled. We will be both better informed and wiser for reading it." -- Peter Brown, Rollins Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton University


"Sahner's writing engages all the reader's senses without wasting a word. His precision keeps the story moving at breakneck speed, leaving the reader with essential insights while eliding potentially distracting factual minutiae. The combination is sheer brilliance. The book is especially impressive given the magnitude of Sahner's intellectual task and the grace with which he accomplishes it." -- Brock Dahl, The Witherspoon Institute


"With an academic expertise in late antiquity in the Middle East, Sahner gives even the seventh and eighth centuries important proximity. In light of the re-emergence of nihilistic and extremist language from the likes of the Islamic State, which promotes a distorted version of Islam's past, Sahner's history is all the more important." -- The Cairo Review


"This excellent little book, a mixture of 'deep' history and travelogue, is essential reading for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the current situation in Syria and the Middle East, beyond newspaper headlines." -- LSE Review of Books


"Among the Ruins is a veritable pleasure to read, despite the poignancy of its subject matter. Combining an account of its author's travels through a Syria now largely destroyed by the ravages of war with a reflection on the causes and course of the Syrian revolution which began in March 2011, the Baathist regime's ruthless response, and the country's subsequent descent into civil war, it is both elegantly written and judicious in its opinions. Informed by Christian Sahner's deep knowledge of classical and medieval history, eastern Christianity and Islam, and enlivened by his travel writer's eye for the telling detail, it will make a useful primer for those seeking to place Syria's current predicament in historical perspective." -- Andrew Arsan, University Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History, St John's College, Cambridge


"In the tradition of Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem and William Dalrymple's From the Holy Mountain, Sahner's travelogue blends memoir and history to provide a rich and colorful background to Syria's current struggle." -Al Jadid