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The Book of Saladin: A Novel

The Book of Saladin: A Novel

Hardback The Islam Quintet

By (author) Tariq Ali

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Paperback $13.79
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Format: Hardback | 280 pages
  • Dimensions: 165mm x 209mm x 34mm | 662g
  • Publication date: 10 November 1998
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1859848346
  • ISBN 13: 9781859848340
  • Illustrations note: map
  • Sales rank: 1,072,117

Product description

Tariq Ali's latest novel is a chronicle set in twelfth-century Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem. The Book of Saladin is the fictional memoir of Saladin, the Kurdish liberator of Jerusalem, as dictated to a Jewish scribe, Ibn Yakub. Saladin grants Ibn Yakub permission to talk to his wife and retainers so that he might present a full portrait in the Sultan's memoirs. A series of interconnected stories follows, tales brimming over with warmth, earthy humour and passions in which ideals clash with realities and dreams are confounded by desires. At the heart of the novel is an affecting love affair between the Sultan's favoured wife, Jamila, and the beautiful Halima, a later addition to the harem. The novel charts the rise of Saladin as Sultan of Egypt and Syria and follows him as he prepares, in alliance with his Jewish and Christian subjects, to take Jerusalem back from the Crusaders.

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Author information

Tariq Ali is a writer and filmmaker. He has written more than a dozen books on world history and politics--including "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Bush in Babylon," "The Clash of Fundamentalisms" and "The Obama Syndrome"--as well as five novels in his Islam Quintet series and scripts for the stage and screen. He is an editor of the "New Left Review" and lives in London.

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)