Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Templars: History and Myth

The Templars: History and Myth, by Michael Haag, is published in hardback by Profile Books, London, 2008.

'Here at long last is a history of the Knights Templar - and their secrets - that you can believe in.' - The Scotsman

'Michael Haag, in his well-knit narrative, gets through an enormous spread of history, helpfully telling readers what the Bible has to say about the Jewish Temple before running through the Roman, Muslim and Crusader centuries. The after-history of the Templars is dominated by the imaginings of Freemasons and the conspiracy fancies of scarcely distinct alternative historians and novelists.' - Daily Telegraph

The Lost Oases

Michael Haag has written an extensive introduction to this new edition of the 1925 classic of desert exploration, The Lost Oases by Ahmed Hassanein, published by the American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York, 2006.

In The Lost Oases, Egyptian explorer and diplomat Ahmed Hassanein tells how he set out by camel from Egypt’s Mediterranean coast and into the unknown reaches of the Sahara. His perilous eight-month journey in 1923 took him round the western edges of the Great Sand Sea to El Obeid in the Sudan, a distance of 2200 miles, and led him to the discovery of the lost oases of Arkenu and Uweinat at the extreme southwest corner of Egypt. At Uweinat Hassanein was amazed to find rock drawings of animals, including lions, giraffes, ostriches and gazelles. He was deep in the trackless desert but what he had found was evidence of a flourishing human existence ten thousand years ago and proof that the Sahara was once green. Hassanein’s discovery excited the imaginations of later European explorers such as Ralph Bagnold and Ladislaus Almásy, the model for the eponymous character in The English Patient. But Hassanein was there first, travelling by camel with Bedouin guides, encountering the mysterious Senussi brotherhood in Libya, and confirming the existence of the long-forgotten oases. First published in 1925 and long out of print, The Lost Oases is now available for another generation of readers in this new edition, which includes an introduction
by Michael Haag on Hassanein, his life and his accomplishments. Copiously illustrated with Hassanein’s own photographs, this is a gripping travel narrative by one of the twentieth century's most important explorers.

'Hassanein left a legacy of unprecedented achievements and an incredible account of his journey in The Lost Oases, an inspiration for generations to come.' - Al Ahram Weekly

Alexandria: City of Memory

Alexandria: City of Memory is written by Michael Haag and is published by Yale University Press, London and New Haven, and by The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 2004

'Michael Haag’s Alexandria is a remarkable achievement. Not merely a composite biography of Forster, Cavafy and Durrell, or their relations with the city, it is also a history of Alexandria, full of fascinating detail.'—Sir Frank Kermode

This book is a literary, social and political portrait of Alexandria at a high point of its history. Drawing on diaries, letters and interviews, Michael Haag recovers the lost life of the city, its cosmopolitan inhabitants and its literary characters.

Located on the coast of Africa yet rich in historical associations with Western civilisation, Alexandria was home to an exotic variety of people whose cosmopolitan families had long been rooted in the commerce and the culture of the entire Mediterranean world.

Alexandria famously excited the imaginations of writers, and this book folds intimate accounts of E. M. Forster, Greek poet Constantine Cavafy and Lawrence Durrell into the story of its inhabitants. It recounts the city’s experience of the two world wars and explores the communities that gave Alexandria its unique flavour: the Greek, the Italian and the Jewish. The book deftly harnesses the sexual and emotional charge of cosmopolitan life in this extraordinary city, and highlights the social and political changes over the decades that finally led to Nasser’s Egypt.

'In his new book, Michael Haag mixes memory and biography, politics and cultural studies in clear and seamless prose.'—Amos Elon, New York Review of Books

'This is full of intrigue and incident, and sparkles with countless delightful details.'—S.B Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

'Michael Haag's excellent Alexandria: City of Memory paints a vivid portrait.'—Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker

'A fine and deft interweaving of the personal and the political.'—Michael Glover, The Financial Times

'A brilliant portrait not only of Alexandria, but also of an international city. Ending this haunting book, some readers may want to re-read it at once.'—Philip Mansel, The Guardian

'Haag’s Alexandria goes further than any book I know to animate the world these people lived and loved' — Anthony Sattin, The Sunday Times

Alexandria: City of Memory has also been published in Greek translation by Oceanida Publishing, Athens 2005.

Michael Haag's book Alexandria: City of Memory is a judicious mix of history, biography and literary scholarship with a dash of political thriller thrown in. ... Its aim is to capture the feel of historical Alexandria – city of the Ptolemies, of Callimachus, Theocritus and Cavafy – before two world wars and Arabic nationalism changed it forever. ... For Forster the talismanic Cavafy poem had been The God Abandons Antony; for Durrell it was The City. Both, of course, centre on the loss of a city of the imagination. Now the historical Alexandria, too, exists only in memory. Its fate calls to mind that of other cosmopolitan centres reduced by ethnic nationalism to a shadow of their past glory – Smyrna, Salonica and Constantinople, to name but three. Haag's careful and well-written book is a fine elegy and tribute to Alexandria.

- Clifford Endres, Athens News

Cairo Illustrated

Cairo Illustrated is written and photographed by Michael Haag and is published by The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York, 2006.

‘Michael Haag’s Cairo Illustrated is in a category of its own. The photographic illustrations are beautifully shot and richly complement Haag’s prose. He describes the chaos and the allure of the city: “ as the sun sets over the Nile, the present slips away into timelessness. The call of the muezzins floating across the darkening city and the Pyramids of Giza, magnificently silhouetted against the shimmering horizon, are reminders that the monuments of the pharaohs and sultans lie within the compass of the city Egyptians call “Mother of the World.”’ -- Egypt Today

Alexandria Illustrated

Alexandria Illustrated, written and photographed by Michael Haag, is published by The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York, 2004.

This warm and richly illustrated portrait of one of the world’s most famous cities is a fascinating armchair tour of the pageant that is Alexandria. It explores the city’s past and present in word and picture, from the ancient Pharos to the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, from Pompey's Pillar to Pastroudis. This book also evocatively recaptures the flavour of cosmopolitan Alexandria, its carnival architecture and the city's literary associations with Constantine Cavafy, E M Forster and Lawrence Durrell.