Three dramatis personae are the center of this review: Riad el-Solh, an activist who was in Damascus with Faysal, struggled for decades against the French Mandate and eventually assumed power in an independent Lebanon; Hisham Sharabi, a prominent secular, critical intellectual reflecting on his youthful, formative years in the late 1940s in Palestine, Lebanon and the US, including his immersion in the failed efforts overthrow the existing Arab order by the Syrian Social-Nationalist Party/Parti Populaire Syrien of Antun Saʿada; and Sayyid Qutb, one of the luminaries of radical Islamism until this day, 45 years after his execution by the Egyptian authorities. Each book sheds considerable light on the spirit of the times, the formative decades of Arab politics, contributes to our understanding of why the Arab state system turned out the way it did, and even provides markers for understanding the present mix of cross-currents which are buffeting the region.

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