Outlandish Knight : The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman
'An extraordinary book ... exceptionally fascinating, always readable and penetratingly intelligent' David Abulafia'As rich, funny and teemingly peopled as Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time ... Dinshaw writes with wit and elegance, and the most elegiac passages of Outlandish Knight evoke a lost society London and way of life' Ben Judah, Financial Times'This dazzling young writer is a mine of fascinating, memorable and totally useless information... I have been riveted by this book from start to finish, and leave the reader with one word of advice. Watch Minoo Dinshaw. He will go far' John Julius Norwich, Sunday TelegraphThe biography of one of the greatest British historians - but also of a uniquely strange and various manIn his enormously long life, Steven Runciman managed not just to be a great historian of the Crusades and Byzantium, but Grand Orator of the Orthodox Church, a member of the Order of Whirling Dervishes, Greek Astronomer Royal and Laird of Eigg. His friendships, curiosities and intrigues entangled him in a huge array of different artistic movements, civil wars, Cold War betrayals and, above all, the rediscovery of the history of the Eastern Mediterranean. He was as happy living in a remote part of the Inner Hebrides as in the heart of Istanbul. He was obsessed with historical truth, but also with tarot, second sight, ghosts and the uncanny.Outlandish Knight is a dazzling debut by a writer who has prodigious gifts, but who also has had the ability to spot one of the great biographical subjects. This is an extremely funny book about a man who attracted the strangest experiences, but also a very serious one. It is about the rigours of a life spent in the distant past, but also about the turbulent world of the twentieth century, where so much that Runciman studied and cherished would be destroyed.
- Paperback | 784 pages
- 129 x 198 x 34mm | 557g
- 06 Jul 2017
- Penguin Books Ltd
- London, United Kingdom
Brilliantly entertaining ... Mr Dinshaw's choice of subject for his first book is an inspired one. He interweaves the strands of a long and variegated life with sympathy, elegance and awareness of the wider picture ... Mr Dinshaw has done Runciman proud. To whom will he turn his attention next? * Economist * Minoo Dinshaw's biography is itself a splendid mosaic, a careful and well-written account ... I wonder where Minoo Dinshaw goes from here. His is a splendid book, to be put at once onto the Wolfson Prize shortlist. -- Norman Stone * Oldie * An astonishing feat of empathy as well as research ... What keeps the reader's interest on every page is, precisely, this biographer's sensitivity to atmosphere and his humorous awareness ... Near-omniscient thoroughness, gentle humour and psychological precision. -- Noel Malcolm * New Statesman * 'An extraordinary book ... exceptionally fascinating, always readable and penetratingly intelligent account of one of Britain's most distinguished and colourful historians' -- David Abulafia * Standpoint * More than a biography; it is also a work of substantial literary criticism... This dazzling young writer is a mine of fascinating, memorable and totally useless information... I have been riveted by this book from start to finish, and leave the reader with one word of advice. Watch Minoo Dinshaw. He will go far -- John Julius Norwich * The Sunday Telegraph * Casts fresh light on [Runciman's] sexuality and his adventures as a part-time spy. -- Tim Cornwell * The Sunday Times * This biography is both funny and erudite and empathetic but critical as it chronicles a fascinating caste of dangerously charming spies, poet-scholars, scheming Oxbridge academics, dashing majors and clever queens. -- Barnaby Rogerson * Country Life * Dinshaw does a superb job in avoiding a chronological cradle-to-grave account of the life. Only towards the end of the book, for example, does he deal with Runciman's homosexuality, and his judgment here is perfectly balanced. The account of Runciman's old age (he died, aged 97, in 2000), playing the laird and host at his Borders tower Elshieshiels, couldn't be bettered. ... [Dinshaw] vividly brings alive this secretive, ludic man, making good his case that Runciman, like all the best historians, should be considered, first and foremost, as a writer -- Jane Ridley * Spectator * This obscure, ever-so-slightly discredited historian is an inspired choice of subject by Minoo Dinshaw. ... Dinshaw, rather than writing a crisp biography, has written a gigantic one, as rich, funny and teemingly peopled as Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time ... Dinshaw writes with wit and elegance, and the most elegiac passages of Outlandish Knight evoke a lost society London and way of life -- Ben Judah * Financial Times * A kaleidoscopic biography, studded with vivid portraits and entertaining footnotes. The writing is as elegant and as attentive to cadence as Runciman's ... Dinshaw has Runciman's talent for characterisation. ... Minoo has triumphed. He conjures up the worlds, works and harlequin career of Runciman with a magical touch of his own. -- James Howard-Johnston * Literary Review *
About Minoo Dinshaw
Minoo Dinshaw lives in London and Outlandish Knight is his first book.