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The Book of Saladin: A Novel

The Book of Saladin: A Novel

Paperback The Islam Quintet

By (author) Tariq Ali

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  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Format: Paperback | 378 pages
  • Dimensions: 135mm x 188mm x 31mm | 408g
  • Publication date: 2 December 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1859842313
  • ISBN 13: 9781859842317
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition
  • Illustrations note: map
  • Sales rank: 96,852

Product description

Set in the twelfth century Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem, this is the fictional memoir of Saladin the Kurdish liberator of Jerusalem. It is the second in the series of historical novels depicting the confrontation between Islam and Christian civilisations.

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Author information

Tariq Ali is a writer and film-maker. He has written over a dozen books on world history and politics and plays for both stage and screen. The first novel of his Islam Quartet, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, has been translated into several languages and was awarded the Archbishop San Clemente del Instituto Rosalia Prize for the Best Foreign Language Fiction published in Spain in 1994. the third, The Stone Woman, was published by Verso in 2000.

Review quote

"The Book of Saladin is the second in a quartet of novels by Tariq Ali on the long encounter between Western Christendom and the world of Islam. Grippingly well told, brilliantly paced, remarkably convincing in its historical depiction of a fateful relationship, it is a narrative for our time, haunted by distant events and characters who are closer to us than we had dreamed." - Edward Said "Ali overturns demonising stereotypes of Salah-al-Din, portraying instead the 'barbarian' Western invaders. Whether depicting erotically charged harem intrigue or siege warfare, The Book of Saladin is an entertaining feat of revisionist storytelling." -- Simon Carnell, Sunday Times "Ali's new historical novel... is told in a manner which combines the incantatory storytelling of the great Middle Eastern anthologies with the solidarity of historical research." - Philip Hensher, Mail on Sunday "Fiercely lyrical. Weaving political intrigue, gay and straight love, betrayal, cross-dressing, rape, assassination and crimes of passion, Ali's tale ripples with implicit parallels to our age." -- Publishers Weekly

Editorial reviews

Ali (Fear of Mirrors, p. 1302), a historian, academic, satirist, filmmaker, screenwriter, playwright, and - yes - novelist, here continues the tale, begun with Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1993, not reviewed), of Islam's confrontation with Christianity. The style of this second entry in a projected trilogy or quartet is smooth indeed as All chronicles the days of Saladin in 12th-century Cairo, Damascus, and Jerusalem. Yet the emotional flow of the fictional memoir is often rendered in banalities, as when young Saladin (real name: Salah al-Din) is abandoned by his mistress for an older man: "So I rode back to Damascus in a jealous rage, weeping tears of anger and of sadness." No doubt. But such feelings have been rendered rather more intensely by writers ranging from Dostoevsky to Salinger. Even so, one is carried along by the sheer gallop of the storytelling and dead-on sense of time and place. In volume one, Islam lost Spain after ruling the Iberian peninsula for 300 years. As a Kurdish warrior, Salah al-Din claims his most outstanding conquest in the liberation of Jerusalem in 1187; the city had fallen to the First Crusade in 1099 and left Islam shaken, reeling, panicked. His story is told to a Jewish scribe named lbn Yakub, who also interviews other members of Salah al-Din's court, including his wife. At length, Salah al-Din becomes Sultan of Egypt and Syria; his story is rounded out with a letter detailing the character and devilments of the despised Richard "the Lion-Arse." Episodic but red-blooded and even thoughtful, as if urged on by Leonard Bernstein conducting Carl Orph's Carmina Burana. (Kirkus Reviews)