There’s a man I’m interested in, Nasser! It’s impossible not to notice this title! It is a sentence taken from a conversation between the French President, Charles de Gaulle, and his Algerian counterpart, Ben Bella, that the author of the book, Abbas Abou-Ghazala, decided to make the title of his current work on Nasser. One of the most controversial personalities of the contemporary world, a subject of division among his countrymen, Nasser continues to be a subject that inspires and admires at the same time. From the first lines of his book, Abbas Abou-Ghazala explains how he learned the sad news of the President’s sudden disappearance on September 28, 1970, while he was in Paris to prepare a thesis at the Sorbonne at the French theater of court in the 17th century, and especially during the reign of Louis XIV. The author, who was born in Alexandria, emphasizes the reactions of his two compatriots, who were in France at the time, varying between pain and indifference. It also evokes the funeral of a ” Legendary Rais which angered him. But, it was General De Gaulle’s tribute, ” an unforgettable testimony », which inspired the author to start his search, to create a new work.
Skilled researcher, historian translator guided by concern for impartiality, Abou-Ghazala was led to explore, deepen and expand the knowledge of Raïs through a well-constructed plan. In order to do this, the author has to carry out two paths at the same time: the exploitation of the testimonies and messages of condolence written after the death of Nasser and the analysis of his speeches and statements, as well as many nai -published articles. in the French and international press and the memories of politicians who knew him.
Through ten chapters spread over 297 pages, he rewrites, with great meticulousness and visible sympathy (doesn’t he appropriate De Gaulle’s opinion underlined from the title?), the portrait of Nasser without making a true biography of it.
In the first chapter, he traces the career of the young Gamal Abdel-Nasser, son of a postman, from military school to the Revolution of 1952, which went through the war in Palestine. A story full of relevant observations and thought provoking details. Abou-Ghazala sought help from the extensive work written by Georges Vaucher, economist, head of financial services of Diary of EgyptCairo correspondent for several Swiss newspapers and living for more than 30 years in Egypt, titled Gamal Abdel-Nasser and his team.
The excerpts taken from it form part of the eyewitness account, Vaucher, of the readings that marked the young Nasser’s spirit and shaped his patriotism. Gradually, political incidents paralleled his career, while there were always testimonies like that of Kamaleddine Hussein, member of the Free Officers, confirming the Egyptian illustrated magazine Al Mossawarand quoted by Vaucher, to have ” decided to kill all the Egyptian traitors “. The author gives an important place in the book signed by Nasser himself, ie The Philosophy of Revolution. He went back and forth to trace the main lines of Nasser’s policy. It goes around” three circles » : the Arab world, Africa and the Muslim world.
Achievements and mistakes
The issue of domestic politics was not addressed. However, he devotes four chapters to the High Dam project at Aswan, and the withdrawal of the great powers and the World Bank from financing this great project that led Nasser to nationalize the Universal Company of the Suez Maritime Canal . An action that contributed to France, England and Israel starting a war to regain the canal.
Chapter VI paints a picture of Nasser, the leader of the non-aligned. So he emphasized his speech at the 15th session of the UN that opened on September 20, 1960, and where all the main problems of the day were addressed: Nasser returned to the fate of the Congolese, Palestinians, Algerians. Chapter VII bears the same title as the book: There is a man I am interested in, Nasser “. It is a question of emphasizing the points of similarity and mutual admiration between two heads of state who have never met: Nasser and De Gaulle. Chapter VIII is a mea culpa of Nasser and the reaction of the man his resignation was announced in the National Assembly on November 23, 1967. In this chapter appears one of the most interesting passages of the work, when ‘Abou-Ghazala inserted an extract from the unusual work signed by Naguib Mahfouz, in 1983, Before the Throne-dialogue between heads of state.
In this work, translated by Abou-Ghazala, Mahfouz brings Nasser before a Court of several former governors of Egypt, from all eras, to judge his actions: achievements and mistakes, since he took power: “(… ) King Menes spoke to Nasser: But your interest in the union of the Arabs is more than the immortal Egypt and you even crossed out the name of the eternal Egypt with a stroke of the pen. Many Egyptians were forced to migrate, which they had never done before, except in times of temporary compulsion. Nasser replied: It is not my fault if some Egyptians think that Arab unity means their loss. It is not my fault that I have achieved glorious deeds, my predecessors were not able to achieve (…) “.
The book concludes with chapters IX and X dealing with Nasser’s death, and the tributes paid to his memory by world leaders, who made their speeches at the UN. Their sentences complete the portrait sketch throughout the work.
A rich work, with pictures of Nasser at different stages of his life, with his father and uncle, at the military school, during the fire in Cairo in 1952, with Ben Bella and Khrushchev. These are supported by documents such as the front page of the daily The Journal of Egyptdated July 27, 1956, extracts from weeklies Progress-Week of July 29, 1956 and The news of July 27, 1956. They emphasize a rich text. What increases the interest of the work added to the earlier books signed by Abou-Ghazala, namely The Genesis of Aida Opera and the Alexandria Expedition and The Alexandria Expedition—Kléber versus Bonaparte.
There is a man who interests me, this is Nasser!, by Abbas Abou-Ghazala, L’Harmattan editions, 2022, 297 pages.