This is my story, the story of an Arab woman. It is the story of a lost world...
"It begins in 1917, in Lebanon, when I was seven years old." So opens this haunting memoir by Wadad Makdisi Cortas, who eloquently describes her personal experience of the events that have fractured the Middle East over the past century.
Through Cortas' eyes we experience life in Lebanon under the oppressive French mandate, and her desire to forge an Arab identity based on religious tolerance. We learn of her dedication to the education of women, and the difficulties that she overcomes to become the principal of a school in Lebanon. And in final, heartbreaking detail, we watch as her world becomes rent by the "Palestine question," Western interference, and civil war.
A World I Loved is both an elegy on Lebanon and her people, and the unforgettable story of one woman's journey from hope to sorrow as she bears painful witness to the undoing of her beloved country by sectarian and religious division.
Wadad Makdisi Cortas was the principal of the Ahliah National School for Girls in Lebanon for twenty-six years, and the mother of four children, including Mariam Said, wife of Edward Said. Wadad Makdisi Cortas died in 1979.
100% of sales of this book are donated to Al Ahliah School
Proceeds from the sales of copies of this book are donated entirely to Al Ahliah School in the heart of Beirut.
In 1950, Mary Kassab School became Ahliah Girls' College. Boys were admitted at the elementary level only. During this time, Ahliah became one of the foremost educational institutions in the country. This achievement was made possible through the efforts of its Board of Trustees, which included prominent members of the intellectual, educational and social elite of the country, and through the dynamic leadership of its second principal, Mrs. Wadad Al Makdissi Cortas, who took office in 1935. Mrs. Cortas who was keen to diversify the educational activities of the school, devoted much attention to culture and art in the school's mission.
World Premiere of A World I Loved on Saturday 12 May, 2012
A staged interpretation at Theatre Royal Brighton with music and readings of Wadad Makdisi Cortas's acclaimed memoir.
Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, with Nadim Sawalha, Mariam Said, Najla Said and Brighton Festival Youth Choir
‘Cortas's passion for politics is at the forefront of her memoir ... But this is also a poignant, personal work of nostalgia, of longing for a lost world.' Financial Times
THE STAGE Reviews - Brighton Festival 'A World I Loved'
May 14, 2012
This was an exemplary festival event. First, it provided an enjoyable mix of star glamour (Vanessa Redgrave, its guest director) and local talent (the young Brighton Festival Choir). Secondly, it reached beyond the delights of wildly partying Brighton, combining words by a Lebanese teacher and...
THE INDEPENDENT - A World I Loved, Brighton Festival
May 14, 2012
Among the many heartening aspects of last year's Arab uprisings was the visible role of women in the protests. These women might easily have looked to the writings of Wadad Makdisi Cortas for inspiration.
Born in 1909 in Beirut, then part of Syria under the rule of the...
This book was written by a woman who was the principal of and involved in the development of a school for girls in Lebanon for 40 years. Married with four children, she covered issues pertaining to area history and the culture, some facts about development of the school and some about the Arab philosophy. Several pages of photographs were also included.
Like another reviewer, I also purchased this book at a deep discount. I picked it up only because of price and curiosity. I'm not a history buff and admit that my knowledge of related issues is virtually nil. While I've traveled extensively internationally on business, it's not been to any of the places covered in this book which one might term the "Middle East".
As a positive from my perspective, the book read more like a story than a "history book" and as result moved along as an "easy read". I found the book interesting and insightful although I would not have enough knowledge or background to judge its validity. I took it on face value.
When I finished the book, my first thought was that I wished it had covered more of the topics in depth. For anyone strongly interested in women's issues and/or those who might find interest in "just a glimpse" into the Arab world, especially that of a progressive, successful family, I'd recommend the book. -Amazon Reader Review
Ghassan Karam August 20, 2009
When I bought "A World I Loved" at a book reading held by Mariam Cortas I was not sure that I was going to read the book. I had known the Cortas family for over fifty years, and I thought I would not learn anything new. Boy, was I wrong. I started reading the book on my 30 minute train ride home and then I stayed awake until the wee hours of the next day until I finished it. In hindsight, I think that my attraction to the book was strengthened many times over by the wonderfully written introduction by Mariam Cortas , the daughter of the author.Her account was full of candor and revealed some very special intimate details about the life of "The Arab Educator" par excellence. (We learn for example that Mrs. Cortas never had a bank checking account). The book itself is a concise history of the forces that have shaped the Middle East after WWI told through the lens of the personal experiences of a woman who spent a life time teaching, preaching and discussing such important topics as the injustice of the Sykes Picot accord. As much as I liked the book it yet left me wondering if it had been over edited. The early parts of the book do not provide enough explanation for the positions that Mrs Cortas took and how she arrived at them. The latter part of the book is so over edited that at times a full year is dispensed with in one paragraph. Let me end this review on a personal note. This eminently informative and pleasant book does not give one an insight into the wonderful personal attributes of why Mrs. Cortas was such a galvanizing force in Lebanon and the Middle East. Her biggest asset was her temperament; she was confident , passionate, considerate, rational and a person who inspired trust. -Amazon Reader Review
A Wonerful, Illuminating Book
Karen Malpede June 24, 2009
I loved this book, which is both the personal memoir of a fascinating broad-minded accomplished woman educator and a political history of the forces riling her enlightened world. Her empathy for Jewish refugees and their children whom she educates in her cosmpolitan school is balanced against her knowledge of the plight of the Palestinian children, separated from family and land, whom she also educates and cares for. She worked for and longed for tolerance, acceptance, and the integration into a cosmopolitan life of people of all faiths and creeds; she watched the dream recede until it ended in Civil War in Lebanon, the expulsion of the Palestinians and a militarized Israeli state. Through it all, she found sustenance in music, in the accomplishments of her students, and of her own four children, in the stories of the people who lived in her mountain village, and in the beauty of the land. The world she loved and brings to life is a world all people of good will might love. With a foreword by her daughter and an afterword by her granddaughter, the reader also follows three generations of Arab women and comes to admire each.
-Amazon Reader Review
Fresh Perspective Of The Modern World
Louis A. LeBlanc June 19, 2009
After reading "A Peace To End All Peace", I was looking to read more about the lingering effects from World War One but not from Western eyes. This was an excellent book! This book is written from an Arabic point of view. I gained an appreciation for Arab peoples and their view on life and the world. It's an embarrassment to come from Louisiana , home of the Congressman who proudly stated that we should arrest any one wearing a diaper on their head wrapped with a fan belt. If you want to gain a broader understanding about how we got to where we are today, read this book. News media in the west is pitiful. An informed public needs to have a solid understanding of what happened in the past before listening to media in the U.S.A. And this book gives a good balanced view from the Eastern perspective.
-Amazon Reader Review
Journey to the world she loved
Martha Dewell May 30, 2009
This is a beautifully written, engrossing story of a remarkable woman and her account of life in Lebanon and the region, spanning the early 20th century to the late 1970's. She takes the reader into a different world and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!
The story of her extraordinary life is woven into the narrative of the history and politics of the era, together with vivid descriptions of daily and family life, the landscape, people and friends - prominent and otherwise. For those seeking to better know and understand this region, its history and its people - which are so little known and understood in the U.S. - or for those seeking an inspiring story of a principled Arab woman dedicated to education and service - or both - this is a must-read!