Another guest was Prof. Bernard Lewis, the great historian of the Middle East. You always learn a lot from Lewis — just being in the same room with him, you feel wiser. He was born in 1916, six years after his king, George V, assumed the throne. In America, Wilson was president — in his first term. We had not yet entered the war.
I had about 45 minutes with Lewis, upon the stage. What I mean is, we had a little conversation, before our passengers. We talked about Turkey, Iran, the Palestinians, Israel, the Islamicization of Holland and Belgium — many things (as time allowed).
I'm tempted to think that there will never again by anyone like Lewis — that he is the last of a certain type of scholar. The last of the first-class scholars. But this cannot be true. I will give you an analogy from music. In every generation, there are those who say that we've seen the last — heard the last — of the greats. "Oh, Nikisch! Oh, Hofmann! Oh, Caruso! Conducting, piano playing, singing — all of that has come to an end. Boo hoo hoo." And it's never true. It's always bunk. There are always others.
Last night, at a Chinese restaurant, my companions and I saw James Levine — a man who is in the pantheon of conductors, an immortal. And there will be others . . .
I'm sure that, in the time of Thucydides, and shortly thereafter, people said, "That's it — history-writing has come to an end. There will never be another one who is up to the job." And it wasn't true.
Nonetheless, I can't imagine another scholar — another scholar of the Middle East — like Lewis. The MESA crowd long ago took over Middle East Studies. As Lewis once told me, this was similar to the takeover of Chinese Studies by Maoists.
At any rate, I'll stop whining and worrying now, and simply say how grateful I am that Bernard Lewis is here.