Egypt on the Brink
Egypt on the Brink
From Nasser to Mubarak
By Tarek Osman
Yale University Press, Paperback, 9780300162752, 304pp.
Publication Date: January 1, 2011
Famous until the 1950s for its religious pluralism and extraordinary cultural heritage, Egypt is now seen as an increasingly repressive and divided land, home of the Muslim Brotherhood and an opaque regime headed by the aging President Mubarak.
In this immensely readable and thoroughly researched book, Tarek Osman explores what has happened to the biggest Arab nation since President Nasser took control of the country in 1954. He examines Egypt's central role in the development of the two crucial movements of the period, Arab nationalism and radical Islam; the increasingly contentious relationship between Muslims and Christians; and perhaps most important of all, the rift between the cosmopolitan elite and the mass of the undereducated and underemployed population, more than half of whom are aged under thirty. This is an essential guide to one of the Middle East's most important but least understood states.
“The book is short, readable, clear, and passionately written. A good introduction to Egypt''s story.”—Boston Globe
“Strange, then, that despite continued fascination with ancient Egypt, so little aside from turgid academic tomes or breathless journalistic accounts has been published about the current condition of the most populous country in the turbulent Middle East, and among the most influential. “Egypt on the Brink” is a slim book, simply written and easy to understand, and it goes a long way to filling this void. […] The author, Tarek Osman, a Western-educated Egyptian banker and occasional columnist, brings the eye of an intelligent amateur to the story of his country’s past half-century. He writes with feeling, backed up by an impressively broad list of sources as well as sharp critical insight and astute judgment.”—The Economist
“Published a short time before thousands of Egyptians began pouring into Cairo''s Tahrir Square, Egypt on the Brink is a timely account of Egypt near the end of the 30-year Mubarak era. It is presented thematically, rather than chronologically, and one of the most intriguing themes is the notion that whereas Egypt in the age of liberal nationalism (the 1920s and 1930s) and the Nasser years (1952-70) had a regional standing and a sense of national purpose, Hosni Mubarak''s regime lost both this standing and this purpose as it devolved into a dreary despotism. Yet Osman writes with neither nostalgia nor disdain. Separate chapters discuss the Islamists, the Christians, the rise of liberal capitalism, and Egypt''s youth. Even the conclusion, which speculates on who and what regime would replace Mubarak, now overtaken by events, offers useful thoughts on Egypt''s distinctive politics.”—L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs
-L. Carl Brown
"Osman delivers textured historical context . . . and he focuses analysis more accurately than most current pundits."—Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“It is hard to imagine a timelier book than Egypt on the Brink. . . an elegantly written and insightful analysis of the fissures and discontents of contemporary Egypt.”—James Jankowski, Middle East Journal