Michael Haag (1943–2020)

It is with great sadness that AUC Press learns of the passing of Michael Haag (1943–2020), writer, photographer, and historian.

“Haag wrote books for many publishers but ultimately his writing voice was always very much his own,” said Trevor Naylor, AUC Press associate director, sales and marketing, who first met the British travel writer thirty years ago in Cairo. “He brought a sense of authority and an often quiet humor to everything he did.”

In 1982 Haag reissued editions of Alexandria: A History and a Guide and Pharos and Pharillon by E.M. Forster under his own publishing imprint. “Haag was one of the intrepid and innovative travel publishers who emerged in UK publishing in the 1980s,” continued Naylor. “His unique brand of stylishly designed books, aimed at the well-read traveler, found favor with those who saw the road less traveled as their own destination. He made very attractive books and was a trendsetter in independent travel publishing.”

Haag’s own books were published by Yale University Press, Profile Books, Harper Collins, AUC Press, and others. Their topics ranged wide, from the life of British naturalist and author Gerald Durrell and his family in Corfu and India and Mary Magdalene, to the Knights Templar, and Egypt, Alexandria in particular.

“His focus on guides to Greece and Egypt made him the acknowledged writer and expert on the area for some thirty years, with his passion for Alexandria at the heart of it all,” added Naylor. In 2004 Haag published Alexandria: City of Memory (Yale University Press). Reviewing the book for The Guardian, historian Peter Mansel described Haag’s portrait of the city as “haunting,” remarking, too, on the writer’s command of his craft: “[H]e triumphantly surmounts the challenge of interweaving individual lives, literary criticism, urban fabric, grand strategy and political history into a readable narrative. The ease with which paragraphs and chapters open into each other shows the skill with which the book is constructed.”

Also an accomplished photographer whose work appeared in Vogue magazine, Haag explored Alexandria’s past and present in word and picture, with 125 of his own color photographs, in his incisive guidebook Alexandria Illustrated (AUC Press, 2004). His bestselling Vintage Alexandria: Photographs of the City, 1860–1960, published in 2008 (AUC Press), continues to seduce readers nostalgic for Egypt’s bygone era and the vanished worlds of the Mediterranean seaside city’s past. He also edited An Alexandria Anthology: Travel Writing through the Centuries (AUC Press, 2015). “AAA is a rare artifact right out of a Ptolemaic tomb” wrote independent academic Bruce Redwine in a review for the International Lawrence Durrell Society.

Haag brought the same stylish, sophisticated writing and detailed research to several other books he authored on Egypt, including Cairo Illustrated (AUC Press, 2006), Luxor Illustrated: With Aswan, Abu Simbel, and the Nile (AUC Press, 2009), and Egypt: An AUC Press Guide (AUC Press, 2010). Writing in a 2010 review of several of Haag’s works (“Haag’s Many Alexandrias”), Redwine described him as “a meticulous historian,” and “an opinionated guide with a sharp eye, who’s sometimes acerbic, always acute.”

Haag, who lived in London, passed away in January of this year. “At the time of his death, he was struggling to complete his biography of Lawrence Durrell,” said Redwine, who met Haag on several occasions over the years. “His death is a great loss, as is the loss of his unfinished biography.” In his note to AUC Press about the late London University graduate, Redwine, who holds a PhD in English literature and linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, added: “I consider Haag a major interpreter of Lawrence Durrell and a significant promoter of Egyptian culture. Aside from being a fine writer, he was also an excellent photographer.”

AUC Press’s thoughts are with the family and friends of Michael Haag.


 

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