As it’s still vacation for moi, I’ve been catching up on some reading, notably in trying to work my way through a mountain of articles I’ve printed out over the past year. One fascinating one I just read is this English translation of an excerpt of Eric Rouleau’s memoirs, published in the Summer 2012 issue of The Cairo Review of Global Affairs (of the American University in Cairo; the memoirs themselves were published in October by Fayard). Rouleau was Le Monde’s grand reporter, mainly in the Middle East, from the 1950s to the mid 1980s, after which he embarked on a second career as a diplomat (as French ambassador to Tunisia and Turkey, entre autres). In this excerpt Rouleau—an Egyptian Jew born and raised in Cairo (his veritable name is Elie Raffoul)—recounts his visit to Cairo in 1963 at the invitation of the Egyptian state—his first back there since his forced departure from the country twelve years earlier, when he was threatened with legal prosecution for “Zionist and communist activities” (though he had never adhered to either creed)—, his interactions with intellectuals such as Mohamed Hassanein Heikal and Lotfi El-Kholi, and, above all, his audience with Nasser. Very interesting. Reading Rouleau’s account—and being transported back to that period—makes me want to read the book ASAP.
I regularly followed Rouleau reportages in Le Monde in the late 1970s-1980s and had the opportunity to see him speak, at a public talk he gave at the University of Chicago in 1984. Don’t remember much of what he said except that I was impressed.
On Nasser, this YouTube—of him making sport of the Muslim Brotherhood (in 1966)—has been making the rounds over the past year. Between Nasser—warts and all—and Egypt’s current president, my choice is clear.
UPDATE: Eric Rouleau died on February 25th 2015. Michael Young, the Lebanese journalist and commentator, has a remembrance of him in NOW (February 27th). And Alain Gresh, in Al-Araby al-Jadeed English (March 10th), writes on “Eric Rouleau: The great journalist of the Near East.”