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The first major account of the life of an extraordinary soldier and statesman, King Hussein of Jordan.
Throughout his long reign (1953—1999), Hussein remained a dominant figure in Middle Eastern politics and a consistent proponent of peace with Israel. For over forty years he walked a tightrope between Palestinians and Arab radicals on the one hand and Israel on the other. Avi Shlaim reveals that Hussein initiated a secret dialogue with Israel in 1963 and spent hundreds of hours in talks with countless Israeli officials. Shlaim expertly reconstructs this dialogue from previously untapped records and first-hand accounts, significantly rewriting the history of the Middle East over the past fifty years and shedding light on the far-reaching impact of Hussein’ s leadership.
“A powerful, richly researched history. . . . Fascinating. . . . Passionately engaged. . . . Nuanced and human. . . . Shlaim’s blow-by-blow account of Hussein’s career reads as a somberly addictive saga. . . . King Hussein’s whole life was spent in foreign affairs, and his story becomes the story of the Middle East over half a century.”
—New York Review of Books
“King Hussein was a leader of remarkable vision, commitment and humanity. . . . Shlaim brilliantly lays out Hussein’s search for tranquility for his country and his neighbors, and the obstacles his negotiating partners put in his way.”
—The Washington Post
“An absorbing diplomatic chronicle. . . . [Shlaim’ s] authority, and tenacity, are undeniable. . . . His narrative is gripping. . . . Shlaim details every move, much like a crime reporter covering an interminable gang war, marveling at the young boss’s ability to play for a draw or make his own luck. . . . Step by step, he guides us through the opportunities the players did not miss a chance to miss.”
“Excellent. . . . A particularly valuable account of Hussein’s relations with Israel and the Palestinians.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Shlaim is an Iraqi-born academic, reared in Israel and long resident in Britain, who writes about the Middle East with exceptional wisdom and insight. . . . [He] tells the story extremely well.”
—Max Hastings, Sunday Times (London)
“The most authoritative biography of [King Hussein]. . . . He emerges from under Shlaim’s microscope as honest, fundamentally decent and, in a region noted for its brutality and treachery, notably merciful and kind. In his personal dealings, most strikingly with the Israelis, he was especially gracious. . . . Without his relentless diplomacy (conducted often along those secret channels), the region might be even bloodier than it is already.”
“A thrilling, masterful biography.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Sunday Telegraph (London), Book of the Year
“Riveting. . . . Artful. . . . Thoroughly informed.”
—Wall Street Journal
“A highly readable account of the courageous, astute and sometimes impulsive leader of ‘an impecunious and insignificant desert kingdom.’”
“Remarkable. . . . Shlaim tells [this story], for all its complicated scholarship and historical allusion, with genuine compassion. . . . He has worried his way through subterfuge and mendacity, terrorist threat and open warfare, to establish Hussein’s credentials as a genuine champion of peace.”
—Jan Morris, Guardian (London)
“All would-be Middle East peacemakers should read [Lion of Jordan]. For Shlaim shows not only how attempts at peacemaking in the region have failed, but also why.”
—Sunday Telegraph (London)
“Shlaim is the sort of historian every country needs. An exposer of national myths, [he is] the supreme scholar of Arab-Israeli negotiations. . . . For many years [Lion of Jordan] will remain the standard work on King Hussein.”
“Superb. . . . [Shlaim] not only has the twists and turns of the Arab-Israeli conflict at his fingertips but understands better than most why it has twisted or turned.”
“If one wishes to personalise the political history of the Middle East in the second half of the 20th century, there is no better choice of subject than Hussein bin Talal. . . . [Lion of Jordan] captures well the noble aspirations of its subject.”
—Daily Telegraph (London)
“Shlaim’s stinging critique of Israel might stir controversy, but his comprehensive, nuanced account of Hussein’s life illuminates the tragic complexities of Middle Eastern politics.”
“Wide-ranging and well-documented. . . . Shlaim’s book gives us a better understanding of a major politician.”
—The Observer (London)