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Altai: A Novel [Paperback]

Wu Ming , Shaun Whiteside
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

3 Feb 2014
When Q was first published in 1999, it was an international sensation; returning to the same world of that extraordinary novel, Altai is a captivating story of betrayal, beliefs and the clash of civilizations. When a fire breaks out in the Arsenal of Venice in 1569, the enigmatic Emmanuele De Zante, spy catcher and agent of the Venetian secret service, finds himself in jail accused of treason, having been betrayed by his lover. He escapes and embarks on an odyssey that takes him to the Sultan's palace in Constantinople. Spiraling through a series of deadly political games, De Zante and his companions head toward a conflict that threatens the very nature of civilization. A historical epic spanning a continent scarred by war, Altai went straight into the bestsellers list when first published in Italy. It is a coruscating portrait of the divided world - east meets west - in the sixteenth century, where the great empires of the Republic of Venice and the Ottomans are on the verge of an epoch-making conflict. In this dramatic landscape, the authors' collective Wu Ming has created a powerful narrative of danger, identity and adventure.

Frequently Bought Together

Altai: A Novel + Manituana + Q
Price For All Three: £18.87

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  • Manituana £6.29
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; Reprint edition (3 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781681678
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781681671
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Their books sizzle with a kind of lefty jazz: they're linguistically and culturally hip, historically astute, with a heart worn challengingly on the sleeve." Todd McEwen, Guardian

About the Author

WU MING is a collective of four Italian fiction writers based in Bologna, Italy. Wu Ming's books include the bestselling novel Q (under the former pseudonym Luther Blissett), which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, and Manituana. Their website is

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The events presented in "Altai" took place between June 1569 and December 1571. As with all of the Wu Ming novels I have read to date, namely Q, 54 and Manituana, most of the characters existed, most of the significant events really happened, and all of the fictitious elements are plausible in the context of the historical facts. What I enjoy about Wu Ming's books is the way in which the fictional characters fit into the historical context and their actions appear to be essential to ensure the history turned out as it did.

From the very start the novel deals with the plight of Jews in Europe of the sixteenth century. Following the lives of a few Jewish characters Wu Ming describes the sense of always existing as an outsider under the sufferance of others and having the sense of always needing to be ready to move on. While Altai deals with the experience of Jews in Christian Europe and in the Muslim Ottoman Empire, the themes and messages of the story are applicable on a general basis to the political machinations in states, in businesses, or in organisations of any sort.

I do not like to present plot summaries in a review as I believe a significant part of the fun of reading is discovering the story as the author presents it to you, not as a reviewer abbreviates it. This is important in the case of Altai because the plot deals with political alliances on the personal level, within the state/empire, and across national borders. Intrigue is key to Altai, and the acute sense of paranoia felt by the conspirator is ever present. To give any hint of plot twists and turns would destroy the atmosphere developed by the Wu Ming authors and greatly diminish the fun to be had when reading this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A currently relevant historic novel 6 Sep 2013
It is impossible not to review this book as a sequel of Q, it is even marketed that way. But it does not compare to Q, it does not have the depth or length of Q, nor are the described events that crucial for Western European history (but they are for the Eastern Mediterranean). Before reading this book I had no clue about the Jewish influences in the Ottoman empire. The current religious/political problems and recent spy scandals, give this novel an extra dose of relevance. I found it a fascinating book, written and translated very fluently.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun 31 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
IThe denouement is a little complex, but no more so than it can be follwed. But who wrote the story?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction at it's Best 21 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good piece of historical fiction, well researched, inventive, pacy and intriguing. The second in a trilogy by a group of Italian writers writing under a pseudonym. Beginning in Venice and moving to Constantinople,the fictional characters are believable and are woven into real events, culminating in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.The narrator Emanuele De Zante had a Jewish mother and Venetian father, when he is framed for causing a fire at the Venice Arsenal he flees and rediscovers his Jewish roots in the Ottoman capital, and from there the intrigue escalates.It is unputdownable !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Altai 11 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After the excellent Q (by Luther Blisset), the reformed agitpop writers from northern Italy turn out another fine yarn. Set just after Q, the book winds through Venice Constantinople and Cyprus. As with Q it's intrigue and plots all the way.
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