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Here was a man whose last book was a hopeful essay titled "Considerations sur le Malheur Arabe," translated roughly as "Considerations on the Arab Misfortune". Its title notwithstanding, the essay was a call for an Arab revival, drawing on what was best in the Arab past. In Syria, once the beating heart of the Arab nationalism Kassir took so seriously, there is only mass slaughter, a Hobbesian world of all against all in which Muslim extremists have made worrisome gains.Kassir was a premier chronicler of that period of modern Arab history defined by the "great issues": Arab nationalism, the Palestinian struggle, anti-colonialism, Western intervention in the Middle East. For me the most enduring is watching Samir in the offices of L'Orient-Express as the magazine neared deadline one late afternoon.This was journalism at its most stimulating, and Samir did it very well.Kassir's impudence made his newspaper articles that much more interesting to read. For someone so consistently alive and agile, for whom provocation and irreverence were second nature, the books, all of them stimulating, revealed a very different persona that did not always correspond to the Kassir one met over a coffee.
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