Harem: The World Behind the Veil 25th Anniversary Edition

Harem: The World Behind the Veil 25th Anniversary Edition

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A fascinating illustrated history of one of the strangest, and cruelest, cultural institutions ever devised. A worldwide best seller, translated into twenty-five languages. "I was born in a konak (old house), which once was the harem of a pasha," writes Alev Lytle Croutier. "People around me often whispered things about harems; my own grandmother and her sister had been brought up in one." Drawing on a host of firsthand accounts and memoirs, as well as her own family history, Croutier explores life in the world's harems, from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, focusing on the fabled Seraglio of Topkapi Palace as a paradigm for them all. We enter the slave markets and the lavish boudoirs of the sultanas; we witness the daily routines of the odalisques, and of the eunuchs who guarded the harem. Here, too, we learn of the labyrinthine political scheming among the sultan's wives, his favorites, and the valide sultana--the sultan's mother--whose power could eclipse that of the sultan himself.
There were the harems of the sultans and the pashas, but there were also "middle-class" harems, the households in which ordinary men and women lived out ordinary--albeit polygamous--lives. Croutier reveals their marital customs, child-rearing practices, and superstitions. Finally, she shows how this Eastern institution invaded the European imagination--in the form of decoration, costume, and art--and how Western ideas, in turn, finally eroded a system that had seemed eternal. Juxtaposing a rich array of illustrations--Western paintings, Turkish and Persian miniatures, family photographs, and even film stills--Croutier demystifies the Western erotic fantasy of "the world behind the veil." This revised and updated 25th anniversary edition of Harem includes a new introduction by the author, revisiting her subject in light of recent events in Turkey, and the world.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 232 pages
  • 179 x 254 x 22.86mm | 884.51g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 25th Anniversary Edition
  • black & white illustrations, colour illustrations
  • 0789212064
  • 9780789212061
  • 659,831

Table of contents

Table of Contents from Harem: The World Behind the Veil Harem Revisited Preface The Grand Harem INTRODUCTION - meaning, origins, polygamy, slave markets, harem of Seraglio, acquisition of slaves, training of odalisques, sultanas, eunuchs, dynasty, the Golden Cage, death, the World of extremes DAILY LIFE IN THE SULTAN'S HAREM - harem walls, gardens, games, pools, riddles and stories, poetry, prayer, secrets of flowers and birds, opium, song and dance, shadow puppets, shopping, excursions, visits and outings, festivals and special days, disenchantment COSTUME AND FINERY - passing of the veil THE BATHS FOODS SULTANAS - marriage of sultans, harem women and politics, valide procession, princess sultanas, remarriage of sultanas, accouchement and birth, death of sultanas, Roxalena (Hurrem Sultana), Kosem Sultana, Aimee DeBucq de Rivery (Nakshedil Sultana) EUNUCHS - Suleyman Aga, origins, types of eunuchs, eunuch trade, procedures, Chinese eunuchs, effects of castration, sexual desire and consummation, marriage of eunuchs, regeneration of genitals, the chief black eunuch (kizlar agasi) Harem Life in the City ORDINARY HAREMS - the go-betweens, romance, gifts, henna night, weddings, husband-wife relationships, polygamy, relationships among wives, superstition and charms, upkeep, adalisques, jewelry, living quarters, bundle women, death West Meets East ORIENTAL DREAM - One Thousand and One Nights, wind from the East, Lady Mary Montagu, journey to the Orient, John Frederick Lewis, the Romantics, Jean-Leon Gerome and the camera, Amadeo Count Preziosi, Empress Eugenie, Pierre Loti, emancipation of the East, the last picture SURVIVALS - twentieth-century Orientalist threads, movies and television, harems today Chronology Bibliography Acknowledgements Index
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Review quote

Praise for Harem: The World Behind the Veil: "This is a serious history, yet an immensely readable one--informative, gossipy, and grand fun." --New York Times Book Review "This beautiful book...stimulates the mind as well as the eye." --Chicago Sun-Times "A book of breathtaking beauty, lavishly illustrated with color plates and written in an ingratiating prose." -- Washington Post "An alluring invitation into the labyrinthine corridors of the Turkish harem." --San Francisco Chronicle "A delight to the eye but also a poignant statement about the lonely...world of women who lived in virtual slavery." --Marin Independent Journal "Croutier's text, a blend of careful scholarship and gossipy family anecdotes, is richly embellished with documentary photographs and colorful 'Orientalist' artwork, depicting harem life." --Christian Science Monitor "A gorgeous book that chronicles, in equal measure, the grisly realities of seraglio life and the glowing fictions of Western voyeurism." --Connoisseur "A fascinating, colorfully illustrated history of one of humanity's most bizarre constructs." --People "An intriguing text about those all-female worlds in the mysterious East. --Cosmopolitan "Ms. Croutier has produced an interesting book, an intelligent speculation on the social and psychological influences of this creation." --The Atlantic
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About Alev Lytle Croutier

Alev Lytle Croutier is the author of Taking the Waters (Abbeville), a history of spas, and three critically acclaimed novels, The Palace of Tears, Seven Houses, and Leyla: The Black Tulip. Born in Turkey, Croutier studied at Oberlin College and founded the publishing company Mercury House.
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Rating details

704 ratings
3.8 out of 5 stars
5 30% (213)
4 33% (229)
3 27% (189)
2 8% (55)
1 3% (18)
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