[English Version] Interview With Gilles Kepel: The Kid Is Back in Town

Back to business! Photo: Alban Delpouy

It was at MedMUN 2020* that Gilles Kepel was first supposed to announce his official return to the Menton campus. This interview should thereby have been published as part of coverage of that event which sadly had to be cancelled due to ongoing health conditions. It is exclusively for Le Zadig, therefore, that the world-renowned Middle East specialist announces his return to campus as a teacher next year. This is an opportunity for him to express his attachment to Menton; tell us about his previous years at Sciences Po on the Côte d’Azur; and,above all, look towards his future on campus alongside director Yasmina Touaïbia. Comfortable both speaking Italian with the owner of the restaurant and telling me a joke about the zebiba of Anwar El Sadat in Egyptian dialect, Gilles Kepel  discusses- in turn- the creation of the campus, his baptism certificate and hiking in the Alpes-Maritime region in our delightful interview. (This after, of course, courteously repeating his Sadat joke in French given my limited understanding of the Arabic!)

What was your initial involvement in the creation of the campus?

In fact, Richard Descoings was the director of Sciences Po at the time and had begun to open the regional campuses. The mayor of Menton, Jean-Claude Guibal, had read an article about it- though I don’t remember where- and had contacted him as a result. One day, then, we were going to a dinner together and, in his car, he asked me if I knew Menton. What he didn’t know was that I was partly from this region and the village of Gorbio just above it [editor’s note: more or less 1,500 feet above the level of the sea]. I told him that I knew Menton and he asked me what I thought of the idea [of the campus’ creation]. Obviously for reasons that might have been more personal than rational, I felt that this was an excellent idea. A few weeks later, we came to Menton with him and the official in charge of research chairs at the time. It was with Jean-Claude Guibal, that we were at first shown the Villa Mer et Monts in the Gorbio valley. It was not suitable however because it was very isolated. Later, when I passed where we are now [editor’s note: Place du Cap], I saw the Saint Julien hospice. I talked to him about it but, at the time, the Cocteau museum was supposed to be located there. The discussions were thus beginning to run out of steam. After that, We had dinner with the director, the mayor and the senator [editor’s note: Colette Giudicelli, Jean-Claude Guibal’s wife], who was in fact not yet a senator at the time, at the Villa Maria Serena [editor’s note: XIXth century seaside villa built by the famous architect Charles Garnier]. At the end of dinner, an agreement of sorts was reached on Saint-Julien. It was a long shot at first, but it was either that or nothing. The paradox is that I took care of the issue somewhat until 2010 when I left without a trace. Up to that point, I’d never seen Saint Julien in action and had known the campus at other locations. Part of the electorate at the time wanted to make it an EHPAD [translator’s note: care home for the elderly] There was, in fact, quite a bit of friction on the matter and, especially with the municipal elections at the time, it was a struggle. I believe that today, fifteen years later, however, that no one in Menton, even opponents at the time, regret it, because campus has considerably energized and rejuvenated the city. It not only pleases landlords who can rent their apartments outside the summer season, but holds strong electoral support. As I’ve seen coming back here, the campus is undeniably very popular and that’s a great thing. In the beginning, when we first started it, those were the heroic years.

I got to know Madame Touaïbia, the new campus director, who has many projects that I found great to move forward, based on her personal experience, her knowledge and her vision

I think in the first year there were about 30 students. it was hand-stitched and had a very family atmosphere so to speak. I remember at the end of the year, I would take out some volunteers who liked to go trekking. We would get on the bus to the village of St Agnes [editor’s note:  2,100 ft above sea level] and take the Sainte-Agnès-Gorbio path through the Baisse de Bausson and be welcomed by the mayor on the square with a giant pissaladière. [translator’s note: local onion pie] The young Moroccans felt emotional because they thought they were in the Atlas and the Levantines felt emotional because they thought they were in Anti-Lebanon. I keep precious memory of moments like that. We were somewhat pioneers. It was very nice. And for me, even more, it was an opportunity to come back here to be with my family. What’s quite funny in the end is that my mother was born in the Villa Jasmin, the girls’ dorms. It’s always been a municipal building and served as a birthing house: so in a way I’m totally rooted to Menton!

Anyways, starting in 2010, Sciences Po entered a somewhat turbulent period as everyone knows, and I took another direction with my career which led me to move to the Ecole Normale Supérieure. There I recreated a Middle Eastern Mediterranean professorship and a master’s program- though unfortunately today the Middle East MA at Sciences Po no longer exists. In the end, it turned out that Director Frédéric Mion, asked me to pick up the lecture theatre course in Boutmy  [translator’s note: the main amphitheatre in the Paris campus] on Mondays this semester. Boutmy is quite full and there are 380 students there I think- and from this perspective, as I am now partly settled in Menton, it seemed a good idea to see if I could combine the useful with the pleasant, or the pleasant with the useful, seeing as I’ll be here anyway. I met Madame Touaïbia, the new campus director, who has quite a few projects that I thought excellent to go ahead with based on her personal experience, her knowledge and her vision. The idea, with all the initiatives in Paris, is to work with the network I have acquired in Switzerland- where I am also a professor at the University of Italian Switzerland in Lugano and where we now organize a Middle East and Mediterranean forum every August. The aim is to put Sciences Po Menton a little more on the map by facilitating its opening up and ensuring a new flow of quality teachers, with a very dynamic intellectual and academic view. I’d be very happy if I could be useful and am very enthusiastic about the idea of being a part of this. Next year I will be teaching a course on crises in the Middle East and the Mediterranean- in English in the first semester and in French in the second. It is a bit like the one I am teaching in Boutmy but is adapted to College students with a more structure and more of a pedagogical dimension. It is very important – to both me and the campus director- that students have a certain number of points of reference at the beginning of a university cycle  [editor’s note: the course will mainly rely on Gilles Kepel’s new book Away from Chaos. The Middle East and the Challenge to the West (Columbia University Press, 2020)]. Of course, you can criticize them, but one still has to be knowledgeable about them. It could be that it is something along these lines that we have been lacking, so if I can be useful, In this project that the Sciences Po Administration in Paris (and here) want to set up, I’d be overjoyed to lend a hand- if only for personal reasons.

I’ll teach next year [in Menton] a course in English in the first term and in French in the second on the Middle East and Mediterranean crises.

Villa Mer et Monts, Jean-Claude Guibal’s initial proposal to host Sciences Po at Menton ( © Mentons info et page Facebook « Villa Mer et Monts – Menton » )

If we go back a little in the past, what are the courses you have taught at Menton?

I don’t remember! The first year, they were fairly general courses, more general things about the history of the ancient Middle East. I remember that in the first years, I managed to bring in half a dozen students from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, whose level in French and English was extremely low. I ended up teaching in Arabic. They were fairly basic courses, mainly about the region, but I always stuck to my speciality above all. It was extremely interesting because It brought them things they had never heard before about the region in their own language.

What was your position as scientific director of the campus, which you shared with Mr. Fitoussi, is that right?

Yes that’s right, yes. We were both university professors, so we were both driving the thing. Sciences Po went through a difficult period later on, so that probably lost some of its momentum.

You mean in what era, post-2010?

Yes, at the turn of those years. Afterwards I’m not sure, because I wasn’t there anymore so couldn’t say what happened.

What room for manoeuvre did you have academically with regards to the administration in Paris at that period?

When I was there, it was quite large. Fitoussi and I were listened to.

Precisely. One could say that there is a feeling among the students that Sciences Po is always wavering between the head office in Paris and decentralisation- that they don’t know where to stand- what do you think?

Fittingly, I think that if university professors like me come back, it’s an opportunity to build a more efficient bridge, to break that disconnect. From what I’ve been told by some students who’ve talked to me about it, there seemed to be an issue for them between Sciences Po as an institution and Menton as it were. The idea now is to ensure that it is no longer perceived as a concern but as an asset. Of course, that depends. It relies a lot on the management’s plans, on the congruence of projects, and on the fact that there will be professors with a certain reputation. I understand that this was the shared view of both Sciences Po’s director Frédéric Mion and the campus director.

It was at that point, chronologically, that there was the creation of the Middle East Mediterranean Chair which preceded the Menton campus?

Listen I don’t remember: at my age you have to allow me to lose my memory for sure! But I could say that it was part of a greater whole- namely that, when the campus was created we had basically set up at Sciences Po, I’d dare say, a system from kindergarten to university. In other words we had here people who were beginning to learn Arabic and to travel with the objective that they do the Middle East and Mediterranean master’s degree- and then afterwards go on to the PhD track, if they so wished. It was also in that period, coinciding with the launching of the campus, that we created the first Euro-Gulf forum which took place in Menton in June of 2005. With this we thought to put Menton on the Middle East and Mediterranean map. It was therefore Sheikha Moza,- the wife of the Emir of Qatar at the time, Prince Turki Al Faysal, the founder of the Faysal Foundation in his father’s name- who, at my request, welcomed most of the students, including Stéphane Lacroix, to Arabia after 2001, to prepare their PhD dissertations. There was a whole ensemble that was put together. The crisis of 2010 undid all that.iIt was then instead that there were strategic mistakes that were made, I think, at the Doctoral School [editor’s note: Sciences Po’s Doctoral School in Paris]. As a result, the paradox arose that – while we had the biggest fighting strength out of any French university on these issues- in December 2010, the month when Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to death, the Middle East and Mediterranean Chair was closed. Sciences Po was in the process of becoming one of the main hubs in the world for Middle East research, yet it’s there where things deteriorated. Though we shouldn’t cry over spilled milk, we could, in particular, have sent students to write PhDs on Arab uprisings, or the Arab springs that were then taking place, and certainly after. I did it myself after all with my book Passion arabe [editor’s note: Passion arabe / journal 2010-2013, Gallimard, 2013 (with maps and photos) et al. de poche Folio (without illustrations), Prix Pétrarque Le Monde-France Culture 2013, no English translation available] – though it was different in its perspective. I think we undeniably missed a step- not just at Sciences Po, but in France in general- and it’s a shame because we had all in hand. All that belongs to the past and, in any case, the Middle East and Mediterranean region is not really out of the news and has its own share of surprises every day. In any case, I think that we are now on battle footing and should not think exclusively in terms of a purely institutional strategy. I think that the master’s degree that I recreated at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, within the PSL [editor’s note: Paris Sciences et Lettres] framework, is of course completely open to Sciences Po students who would like it, and there is nothing to prevent them from obtaining a degree in two universities at the same time. I think that we should look at all this with a spirit of openness. As far as I am concerned I am really happy to be able to devote these late years of my life, which I will now partly spend in Menton, to contributing to this. I think it’s part of a much more global vision, detached from exclusively administrative and organizational eventualities. I’m sure it will be very good because, from what I understand, what has been lacking in recent years in Menton is outreach and the vision of the campus director is precisely that. I think that her projects are excellent and, if she wishes of course, I will stand by her side.

In the field of research on the Middle East, and more specifically on Islamism and Jihadism, in which you have imposed yourself, how do you explain the fact that no elder from Menton has stood out so far?

No graduate from Menton has stood out from the crowd? [putting his glass down ] You’re kidding!

Right now, would you confirm that a new generation is really taking hold academically in the form of Mr Rougier [editor’s note: editor of the famous book Les Territoires conquis par l’islamisme, PUF, 2020] and his doctoral students who -it seems to me- are in the process of really finding their niche in that academic field?

Bernard Rougier is 50 years old anyway, he’s a university professor.

And Mr. Micheron, who will be coming [a conference on campus was initially planned before the precautions taken against the coronavirus] is one of his students, isn’t he?

No, he’s one of my students [editor’s note: mea culpa]. He wrote his PhD under my supervision [leading to his book Le Jihadisme français. Quartiers, Syrie, prisons, Gallimard, 2020]. Professor Rougier was also on the committee. Speaking of being a professor, the disappearance of the master’s degree has been quite restrictive [editor’s note: with less and less students specialising in the region] That’s why I wanted the Menton campus to be a breeding ground after-which students could go on to do lots of things, having started their schooling of Middle East issues from the outset. That’s what I hope to make clear in the courses I’ll be doing here next year: it’s not just the Middle East in itself and for itself, but rather as starting point for an entire way of thinking about global systems. This is found in understanding how, for example, in October 1973 with the Ramadan or Yom Kippur war, King Faisal managing to twist the arm of the West and turn oil into a weapon. There is also the transformation of political language through salafisation and islamisation – which is not only important in the Middle East but in the world at large. It makes one think about how the Soviet Union collapsed after the rout in Kabul on 15 February 1989. I think that out of Menton there have, of course, been some Middle East specialists, but was also a test bed for a way of thinking about the world. The world studied from Menton in no way brings a mediocre understanding. It allows it to be deconstruct from a vantage point that could even be from China in the age of the coronavirus- or anything else. Take the example of what about Iran that makes it as impacted as it is by the coronavirus. China is Iran’s main economic partner and, because of American sanctions, the Chinese can get oil there at discount prices so there are a lot of them in Iran. Then you have the hubris of the Islamic Republic, with whom we have cut off all relations as, as you know, two academics from Sciences Po are currently held there in the unacceptable and extremely worrying conditions of the Evin prison [editor’s note: at the time of the interview Roland Marchal was still in custody but Fariba Adelkah remains in jail] where the virus is widespread. Shiite religiosity is also an accelerator of the haunting virus. In the mausoleums of the imams in Iran you have people coming to kiss and lick the bars of the tomb: you couldn’t imagine a more terrifying and effective way of spreading the virus. All these things, I observed them in Qom and it was striking. People go back afterwards to Iran of course, and also to Bahrain and South Lebanon… [he coughs and jokingly anticipates the posthumous publication of this interview]. You have to see that what was taught here and what I hope will be taught next year, will be something that will allow us to think about the whole world. So to come back to your question in a more specific way: I think it’s all an effect of the disruption that occurred between 2010 and 2020. Now I’m hopeful however that that disruption is going to be lifted.

Don’t you think the generations between 2010 and 2020 have been somehow sacrificed?

Menton generations?

Yes, from Sciences Po.

Look, I have nothing to say about that- I wasn’t there. Everyone will now draw their own conclusions, but personally I’m more forward thinking. I think we need to cross the academic divide. Of course, there have been important intellectual issues at stake. It is no secret that there are different conceptions of the analysis of what is happening in the Middle East today: Some consider that, “it’s no use knowing Arabic to understand what’s going on in the banlieues [editors: impoverished suburbs]”; while others, including myself, on the contrary, feel that we should not disparage language and cultures. it is not an issue of essentialising objects at all. As far as I’m concerned, in my early 1987 book Les banlieues de l’islam, I was already extremely aware of social issues through fieldwork, interviews and surveys. Those who today claim that I study the world of the region from sacred texts have probably never read what I wrote- I integrate them into a perspective of ‘who and not what’. But it’s always quite distressing that people can boast of their ignorance as a virtue. That, unfortunately, is a small part of what happened that led to the closure of the Middle East MA at Sciences Po, but I’m convinced that it is possible from an inclusive perspective for French universities in general to rebuild things.

That’s what coming back to Menton means to me, it has a side, a kind of fountain of youth. […] If I can share my experience with the younger generation, it will be a great pleasure for me personally.

And as long as God lends me life -though I am not religious despite the fact I was baptized at the Church of Notre Dame du Port in Nice, and it was that that allowed me to study Arabic – because the French state is secular in a way that I would describe as hypocritical. So when I got the scholarship in 1977 to study Arabic in Damascus- which you could almost say was the magic formula opening the door to the region that everyone in my generation passed through. That’s why the Syrian question touches us so deeply. But when I got the scholarship, I received a letter, which I’ve unfortunately since lost. It was signed by some official from Foreign Affairs and said “bravo for the scholarship”. I must say it’s wasn’t very difficult, and I shouldn’t say this for the students reading, but there were 10 positions and 7 candidates. It was as we always used to say when I was a child in Nice, “au royaume des aveugles les borgnes sont rois(pronounced in the local accent) [translator’s note: in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king]. So I received a letter saying “bravo you have been selected”, but the fact it was not difficult and there were more positions than candidates gives you a good idea of the state of Arab studies at the time. “I think I should point out that *period* in the past *period* the Syrian authorities asked for a baptism certificate for the visa”. And that was completely astounding to me. I was a leftist- “je bouffais du curé”: I hanged the bourgeois with the guts of the priests or vice versa- I don’t know what the Marxist formula was back at the time. Having to go back to my religious Gorbarine [translator’s note: Gorbio’s inhabitant] great-grandmother who’d gotten me baptized simply to avoid shame in the village- or to allow me to study Arabic if you will-, that had a totally surrealist side, especially since the Ba’ath party in power in Syria claimed to be secular. But I got my baptism certificate and that’s why I was able to become an Arabist. In reality (the certificate) was to verify that we were not Jewish, of course! And what’s funny is that during my career, because of my surname, which comes from my father who was Czech, I was persistently called ‘Jew Kepel’ by a number of Arab media sources and still am now on social networks. Unfortunately for my detractors, however, I don’t have any particularly Semitic origins, but that’s what being an Arabist is all about: it’s ultimately about looking at things with a bit of distance. I believe that being put on an ISIS hit list in 2016 was one thing that made me look at the world with quite a bit more distance. As I’m getting older now, at the end of my career, I’m more detached. That’s what coming back to Menton is like for me somewhat: a sort of fountain of youth. At my age it’s a feeling that is quite pleasant. So If I can share my experience with the younger generation I would be delighted.

Now let’s come back to the ambition of the platform the Mediterranean forum of the campus, which I think will come back

Insha’Allah.We’ve spoken with Frederic Mion about it and of course, the campus is a part of Sciences Po, but it must still be able to open up to the international scene. For example, this summer at the Lugano forum, if the coronavirus permits, the campus director Mme. Touaibia- who has a very good knowledge of the Algerian Hirak movement- is invited to make a speech. The aim is to allow Menton  to open up somewhat. We saw that it worked with the MedMUN initiative. It’s been 15 days now since MedMUN participants were unable to come to Arab World Institute in Paris because they were unfortunately still in stage 1 or 1.5 coronavirus lock-down. I asked nonetheless that it be broadcasted and gave them a little greeting to say “we’re thinking of you”. The inclusion of the Menton campus as part of a greater European movement of ideas and into the Middle East and Mediterranean zone is a crucial issue. I am, in my modest part, quite determined to help that outreach.

You talked about the EuroGolfe gathering, were there any other such gatherings that would not be documented?

There were other EuroGolfe gatherings afterwards, which were in Riyadh and then in Venice. The fourth one that was supposed to take place in Kuwait failed, or did not take place rather. That was during the 2008 financial crisis. All the corporations that were helping us had to pull out because they ran out of money. It is a bit, all things being equal, a bit of a harbinger of the coronavirus today, so we will see. It’s a crisis that will transform the world economy: we’ll see how things unfold. We are not cancelling anything until the moment we decide to cancel. We are preparing events because it is not going to last forever. Likewise we have to ready ourselves, so that Menton students can be the young people who will be the bridge between the shores of the Mediterranean that’s more important today than when it was created. We can see how since the revolutions, the uprisings, or  the Arab “springs” of 2010-2011, the role of youth is quintessential, especially on the other side. State authorities, ministerial machinery, the department of Foreign Affairs, etc. can’t take this phenomenon into account on their own or through their administrations. And that’s why I believe that Menton can therefore play an absolutely pivotal role in this issue and can serve as a link precisely at a time when we can see a new migrant crisis resulting from Mr. Erdogan’s blackmail. We have to think about this phenomenon. At Garavan [translator’s note: first French station after Italy], the Ventimiglia train is stopped every day and the Police arrest illegal immigrants. We’re not just anywhere here. This is something that doesn’t lack impact.

Has the campus managed to play the role of a go-between and political platform that you had initially assigned to it?

I can’t talk about what happened while I was away but we tried to do that at first. We succeeded at some things and didn’t at others. We didn’t have the critical mass that we have today at all at the time – with nearly 400 students, for next year at least. I think there are some very important issues at stake. In the new campus director’s plans and the way that Director Frédéric Mion has assigned objectives, I see very good reason for hope. I’m convinced that they can be implemented as early as next year fairly quickly. In any case, I will stand by their side. It’s true that I am also part of another institution but that’s not a problem.

You recreated a Middle East research chair at Paris Sciences et Lettres, didn’t you?

Yes, that’s it.

Why isn’t the campus better known or recognized? I scoured the internet from an outsider perspective to gather all the documents that had a link to Menton. But there’s not much. It seems like there is an esoteric aura around the campus.

Yes, maybe that’s it, I prefer to talk about the future rather than the past, out of courtesy, so I think it’s not a problem. It’s something that we can put back on track very quickly. As long as we have the right people: a management team and a teaching team that is motivated. You know, a campus is of course its management- but it’s also its academics and students. The three must work in phase, and I’m convinced today that there is this drive in Menton for 2020.

Are you satisfied with the results of your promotional tour [ editor’s note: promoting Menton campus in its early years] to the Gulf countries?

These things are all up to the Gulf countries themselves. The screw has tightened in Arabia. When Stéphane Lacroix’s book -based on the PhD dissertation he wrote under my supervision- was published as part the series I was editing at PUF [editor’s note: Presses Universitaires de France] and then (published) in English [editor’s note: Awakening Islam. Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia, Harvard University Press, 2011] – I had him get a scholarship to Stanford and then found him a job at Sciences Po – when that book was published, the PUF cartographer made a mistake I hadn’t noticed and used an old map that drew a common border between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Saudis however had fought a war to drive a wedge between them. (The book) was considered a crisis of lèse-majesté in Riyadh, and for 7 years, In addition to being quite separate from the institution, I was forbidden to enter the kingdom.

Though it was the work of Mr. Lacroix that had been published?

Yes, but well, it was part of a series that I edited. It was mere pretext I think, but now things have changed because Saudi Arabia- on which we can pass all the judgments we want- itself changed. When I went back there in 2017 it was in a context where I was invited to go in May just before the first disgrace of Mohammed bin Nayef- who was actually arrested quite recently and had been the one who had taken those measures against us. As a result, it’s now possible for us to travel (to Saudi Arabia) and the country’s socio-cultural dimension, at least, has been transformed: women are no longer confined and the veil is no longer compulsory. Afterwards we can debate endlessly about the Saudi political situation, but I believe that today there is a new challenge for the Gulf which should undoubtedly allow Menton students and faculty to regain a presence in this region in the way that we did at the beginning.

If you were to summarize the outcome of your years in Menton?

You mean the Menton years on campus? It was very exhilarating: there was a pioneering spirit that was wonderful. It was an extraordinary opportunity for me to be able to mix my adult life with my childhood because when I was a child, I lived in Nice with my grandmother who was a teacher and the director of a school in Terra Amata. I’d spend all summer in Gorbio [editor’s note: 500 inhabitants], so to me Menton was a metropolis. Today, some students on campus consider it to be worse than Manhattan, but for me it was certainly better. Everyone sees noon at their own time. So now I’m back. And it’s a coincidence- I’m an atheist providentialist, so starting from the moment that I personally choose to come back and settle partially here, if people believe that I can help in my little bit: I see that as a sign that I shan’t dare interpret.

Col du Berceau and a glimpse of Menton’s bay. photo : Alban Delpouy

Do you have an anecdote from campus that you could share?

From the heroic days? Yes. When I think back, it was that walk, that hike, when I took the students. We boarded the little bus from Sainte-Agnès and there were twenty-five of us, or twenty or so- but it was almost the majority (of the campus). Everyone was there with their walking shoes, their backpacks, their little waterbottles and caps, and their sunglasses and sun-cream. And we walked the three hours that, along the Baisse de Bausson path that separates Sainte-Agnes from Gorbio. I still feel that enthusiasm … All the corporations that do team building exercises: I say teach Apple’s computer scientists to build a raft in the Amazonian forest or something like that. It was wonderful. the female students were adorable and the male students too: adorable! I remember the students picking wild cherries as we passed through the Ray waterfall. And then we arrived, there was pissaladièreoffered by the mayor of Gorbio: Mr. Michel Isnard -a good painter, and an all-round jolly good fellow. For me that was really something quite wonderful: to be able to mix scholarship and all that I had built in my academic life with my village of origin, and these young people who -while crossing these Alps of the Extreme South- spontaneously made link with the landscapes of the Atlas or the Anti-Lebanon. You know, with age, memory vanishes. And it is better that it erases some events. There is a famous phrase from Renan: “what makes a nation is not that we remember the same things but that we’ve forgotten them”. So I’m going to follow in the footsteps of Ernest Renan, an author in whose intellectual lineage I feel quite comfortable. It’s probably the most beautiful anecdote on campus- I don’t know what year it was, probably 2008, but I forget! After that everyone got off the bus from Gorbio back to Menton and the story ended. But it can come back. I’m ready to organize another trek- except now I’ll have to be winched up into a helicopter if my weight continues as is!

I assume you have taken a hike to le Col du berceau?

That’s a project for when I settle here! And the Sospel-Garavan trail as well. if I ever manage to take the trek… I’m, unfortunately, at an age now where you have to accept that there are some things you can no longer do.

Interview by Alban Delpouy                                                       

Translated from the French by Hayaan Choudhury, Alban Delpouy and Nicolas Zanotti Fregonara.

Find here the review that the New York Times just reviewed his book Away from Chaos. The Middle East and the Challenge to the West, Columbia University, 2020 (translated by Henry Randolph).

Find here the French version of the interview.

*MedMUN (Mediterranean Model United Nations) is a student-led initiative that hosts simulations of United conferences in French, English and Arabic at Menton.

Publication note: thanks to the town planning department of the city of Menton for the details of the villa Mer et Monts. Many thanks also to Asma A., secretary general of MedMUN, for making this interview possible!

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