North Africa

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. Zona By Geoff Dyer (Pantheon, 228 pp., $24)   NEVER MIND the writing, as superb as it so often is: as agile, as subtle, as witty, as funny, as brilliantly insightful. Never mind the breadth—a book about jazz, a book about photography, a book about a film, a book about D.H.

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A startling new book on the distribution of wealth in early Christianity

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Why an attack in Sudan may herald an intervention in Iran.

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Now that Conrad Black is no longer in jail, he is free to spread his ideas to the hungry masses. National Review, which is always pining for the glory days of imperialism, has taken Black under its wing, and apparently decided that July 4th was an opportune time for him to pen a piece about the glories of empire.

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Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy DilemmaBy Barbara Will (Columbia University Press, 274 pp., $35)   IdaBy Gertrude Stein Edited by Logan Esdale (Yale University Press, 348 pp., $20)   Stanzas in Meditation: The Corrected EditionBy Gertrude Stein Edited by Susannah Hollister and Emily Setina (Yale University Press, 379 pp., $22) ON SEPTEMBER 29, 1951, an oddly dressed young woman appeared in an alley adjacent to the municipal hospital in Angers, a town southwest of Paris.

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Eisenhower in War and Peace By Jean Edward Smith (Random House, 950 pp., $40) The histories we write say as much about our own times as about those we study. The current polarization in Washington has prompted a nostalgia for parties that were less ideologically uniform and more prone to compromise. Fashionable “pragmatism” has similarly infected thinking about foreign policy, as the fallout from the Iraq war lingers in the air a decade on.

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The worst moments in the siege of Dammaj came in late November and early December of last year. During those weeks, the villagers in this little-visited, extraordinarily pious settlement in the northwest corner of Yemen had no access to the only hospital in the region, and dwindling supplies of food. Meanwhile, from day to day, snipers in the hills picked off the citizens as they walked to their mosque. The origins of this conflict lie in the age-old Sunni-Shia split. The attacking army is made up of fighters who adhere to a tradition within Shia Islam known as Zaydism.

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Early Enlightenment

The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages By Nancy Marie Brown (Basic Books, 310 pp., $27.95) A study of twenty member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (recently re-named the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC—the international body that represents Ummah al Islam, with a permanent delegation to the United Nations) found that between the years 1996 and 2003 those countries spent 0.34 percent of their GDP on scientific research, one-seventh of the global average.

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I take the liberty of suggesting that you read a speech given yesterday by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.N. General Assembly. Netanyahu has been unlucky in the treatment of his remarks for a quarter century. He has been even more unlucky in the treatment of his offers to the Palestinian people to start the peace process which they, alas, have refused to do. An article by Neil MacFarquhar and Steven Lee Myers in the Times projects Dame Catherine Ashton, the “foreign minister” of the European Union, as the leading light in the diplomacy of Europe towards Israel/Palestine.

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It is not actually his region. Still, with the arrogance that is so characteristic of his behavior in matters he knows little about (which is a lot of matters), he entered the region as if in a triumphal march. But it wasn’t the power and sway of America that he was representing in Turkey and in Egypt. For the fact is that he has not much respect for these representations of the United States. In the mind of President Obama, in fact, these are what have wreaked havoc with our country’s standing in the world.

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