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The sea in the middle of the world

Algeria, Libya and Lebanon are also on the Mediterranean.


[Mediterranean culture] The palm trees are greener on the other side of the snowfone. Away, away, anywhere away, only there are umbrellas-

drinks there, and good adult waiter who doesn't dream of a master's degree or acting career. The Mediterranean is within easy reach, and safely surrounded by the European community. So I went there last week. Was gone a couple of three nights. For 129 kroner.

Mediterranean Winter: A Journey Through History is called the book, and is now available in paperback in English. American Robert D. Kaplan is the correspondent for Atlantic Monthly, but probably best known as the author of the creepy bestseller Balkan Ghosts (1993). The cover of Mediterranean Winter, on the other hand, promises that this is more of a feel-good travel book, and it seems appropriate for a man who longs away. Or home, as it may also be called. For the book is a deep dive into the history of our common civilization, and thus a timely reminder that the cookbooks are misleading. I love Mediterranean food, people say, and mean Greek olives, Spanish red wine, French cheeses and Italian tomatoes. As if Algeria or Tunisia or Egypt or Turkey are on the Indian Ocean. Or what about Libya, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon and Israel? At Mjøsa?

Throughout 2000-3000 known years, these countries have belonged to a separate spiritual community where knowledge, goods and people have come to rely on a boat, Kaplan reminds us. That is why he writes as much about the Cartagic army commander Hannibal (247-183 BC) from Tunisia as about the great church teacher of Augustine (354-430), who, by the way, grew up in what is today called Algeria. Such cultural links do not become tan, but it illuminates the inside of the head. Today's Muslims must go through the enlightenment period, it is required. Kaplan does not belong to those who make the claim, for he brings with him the Tunisian stripper, historian and reporter Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) as a travel electorate. Khaldun anticipates enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes and Montesquieu in Muqaddimah (1377), the American recalls.

That there is a stronger historical family bond between Greece and Egypt than there is between Southern and Northern Europe is also emphasized in more scientific works. The French historian Fernand Braudel (1901-1985) made a formidable contribution with his 1500-page work The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II from 1949. It thus primarily mentions Mediterranean culture at the end of the 16th century, but dives back to antiquity. So does historian Martin Bernal in his more controversial 1987 book Black Athena, in which he examines the Afro-Asian influence on the cradle of Greek culture. But the cultural commonalities do not prevent this sea from being the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in history. As it has been said and written: Jews, Christians and Muslims do not fight for Jerusalem because they have different views on the value of the city, but because they agree. Cain and Abel had many half-brothers.

Before 1819, there was only one definition of civilization, in the sense of culture, and that was the opposite of barbarism, ie culture. Today it is called civilizations, in the plural. But if you read Kaplan, you understand that it is impossible for us to represent different civilizations. It is a good feeling to take with you into the winter cold, looking for a cup of cocoa to put the parasol in.

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