North Africa: A History From Antiquity to the Present with a couple of mistakes
First the good: The book's wide chronological scope allows Naylor to discern patterns that persist over time in a given culture or country. Muammar Qadhafi was not the first ruler who failed to build civic and other social institutions in Libya, for example. Among other things, I appreciate Naylor's lack of sentimentality and excuse-making over post-colonial troubles in North Africa.
On the minus side, the proofreader apparently lost interest in the book's final chapters, leaving a reference to the former United Nations Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar as José Pérez de Cuéllar. And the Egyptian statesman whose name is variously spelled elsewhere Saad Zaghloul or Zaghlûl appears throughout Naylor's book as Zaghul, no first l. I don't know if this is due to some vicissitude of transliteration or pronunciation, but it sure looks odd. If the spelling is not simply a mistake, the author should have explained his decision to render the name as he did. Explanations of spellings are routine in books that render names from non-Roman alphabets into English.
I also don't care for Naylor'a love of the odd locution "equates with." Why not "amounts to" or even "means"? And the author gets wifty when summing up postcolonial theory--but then, who wouldn't? Such matters are probably dealt with in longer discussion than this survey permits, or else by reading the original sources.
I do, however, find useful Naylor's assessment that postcolonial discourse abandons binary considerations, the insistence that cultures, countries, and their populations are either modern or outmoded, Western or Eastern, and so on. And mostly I like his last chapter, which amounts to a checklist of contemporary writers from Morocco, Tunisian, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt. That just may feed my craving.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013