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Saturday, June 2, 2018

Mark LeVine's Obit for a "Salon Revolutionary"

Mark LeVine-  "... a leader of the new generation of scholars of the modern Middle East and Islam, Globalization, and Popular Culture..." (His words not mine)


Sometime after the 2011 Arab Spring events in Egypt that led to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, UC Irvine professor Mark LeVine hosted an open meeting on campus to report on his experiences being present at Tahrir Square, central point for the revolution. I attended the event and I recall him  describing hopping on a plane to Cairo to be present (He had apparently been in Europe at the time.) LeVine described accidentally bumping into a UCI Muslim Student Union member in Cairo (also present at LeVine's UCI meeting). For the next few days in Cairo, LeVine hung around Tahrir Square and met with people involved in the demonstrations who were planning for an Egypt without Mubarak. Apparently, those meetings LeVine was describing took place in the apartment of Pierre Sioufi, an actor and patron of the arts who allowed his apartment overlooking the square to be used by some of the revolutionaries for planning and coordination. Somehow, LeVine managed to gain access as well.

Sioufi died recently, and LeVine wrote an article about him in March for good old Al Jazeera, for whom he writes regularly. Better grab your hankies before reading because this is soapy stuff.

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/memory-watcher-tahrir-180307083940370.html

"Pierre Sioufi may be gone, but his legacy will continue to inspire courage in Egypt and beyond."

I came up from the square to send out what I feared might be my last dispatch of the revolution to Doha and,....."

"...but I couldn't help thinking of the one-time denizen of Paris, James Baldwin, who once said "History is not the past; it is the present. We carry our history with us. We ARE our history." 

Heavy stuff, indeed.




I have no intention of disparaging Mr Sioufi, who was probably a fine gentleman, I am sure. LeVine doesn't add much else to convince me that he was much more than a Yoko Ono or an Anna Wintour, however. In LeVine's own words, he describes Sioufi as a salon revolutionary who gained 15 minutes of fame in 2011, yet whose legacy will "continue to inspire courage in Egypt and beyond".

Alas for Mark, the heady days of 2011 eventually flopped. The revolution replaced one form of dictatorship for another, which was replaced by the present dictatorship, which says much about the Arab world. LeVine's brush with history turned out to be something like the 2003 Chicago Cubs drive to their first pennant since 1945 when a kid named Steve Bartman stuck his hand out for a foul ball and screwed  it all up. 

But who knows? Had the revolution been successful, LeVine might today be known as the Ernest Hemingway of Egypt, putting him on a level  with the famed writer who went to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War. But then again, Mark LeVine is no Ernest Hemingway.

More like Steve Bartman.



3 comments:

Siarlys Jenkins said...

LeVine's brush with history turned out to be something like the 2003 Chicago Cubs drive to their first pennant since 1945 when a kid named Steve Bartman stuck his hand out for a foul ball and screwed it all up.

Excellent comparison. As Lenin wrote, beware of a pan-Islamic movement masquerading as a national liberation front.

Squid said...

Thanks Gary for this statement: "Mark LeVine is no Ernest Hemingway." Mark is more like Bozo the Clown. Although, Bozo is really famous and Mark is just a leaf in the breeze.

Squid

Gary Fouse said...

I appreciate the rare compliment. Go Cubs!