Thursday, January 05, 2006

A "review" (?!) of an history book on "Medieval Tunisia"



It's really amaizing how some people can pretend to write what they think it's a "review" without knowing how to write one. This is, for instance, the case with many Arab journalists who just want to write about anything with little knowledge of each specific subject: the last example is a "review" in arabic (عرض) by a reporter of aljazeera.net of a "newly" published and important history book "Le Moyen-Age" (a medieval history of Tunisia in a series that includes two volumes, the first being on antiquity). The book is really imporatnt since it was written by the best Tunisian scholars on the topic of Tunisian medieval history (and they are really good and I know that for a fact since luckly some of them taught me some years ago such as Professor Hichem Djait). But the "reviewer" of aljazeera.net failed to talk about some basic stuff, in addition of misunderstanding the goal of a review for he is merely summarizing the book (and I'd say sometimes, even worse, paraphrazing it); he failed for example: (a) to notice that this was written originally many years ago (precisely in 1960 by al-Dar al-Tunisyya li-Nashr) in French and the new publication should be a reproduction of the same old reference, and this is important to say in a review so that the readers would know that this might not be the latest update in the field; (b) he followed literally the flow of the book without trying to make any special effort to reorganize it as any reviewer would do; (c) he did not get the message of the book since he wrote some generic notes like "during the hafsid period Tunisia knew a develpment in many levels inlcuding cultural, economic....", I know this kind of representations is pretty simplistic because I read the book and I know the style of its writers, which is far more profound...

Anyhow, unlike what happens in western review papers like the New York Times Books Review, many Arab journalists think that it's the norm that any journalist would be able to write a review: this is wrong. Reviews should be entrusted to people who are specialists... and they can be scholars or also journalists but they HAVE to know their stuff very closely. Besides a review is not meant to be a summary... but rather a critic of a book.

3 Comments:

At 6:00 AM, Blogger M2K said...

Good criticism, which you A say is true. But concerning the level of deepening, can be that this book is not for the specialists and that they are interested for normal people, that will explain the level of deepening in detail

 
At 12:46 PM, Blogger Hannibal said...

Tarek I totally agree with you.

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Tarek Kahlaoui said...

m2k: Actually even though it's meant to be read by a wider public i.e. including non-specialists it's still a profound book: people like Hichem Djait or Muhammad Talbi (both wrote extensive essays of the book)usually don't write simplistic stuff... even their "simplistic" essays or interviews are deep enough to bring the attention of intelligent minds... Nope! I still think the aljazeera.net reporter was clueless....

 

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