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Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties [Paperback]

Robert Irwin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

14 April 2011
In the summer of 1964, while a military coup was taking place and tanks were rolling through the streets of Algiers, Robert Irwin set off for Algeria in search of Sufi enlightenment. There he entered a world of marvels and ecstasy, converted to Islam and received an initiation as a faqir. He learnt the rituals of Islam in North Africa and he studied Arabic in London. He also pursued more esoteric topics under a holy fool possessed of telepathic powers. A series of meditations on the nature of mystical experience run through this memoir. But political violence, torture, rock music, drugs, nightmares, Oxbridge intellectuals and first love and its loss are all part of this strange story from the 1960s.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (14 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861979916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861979919
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 383,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'A fascinating journey into the spirit and adventure of the 60s' -- Esther Freud, author of Hideous Kinky

'One of the most delightfully diverting explorations of the byways of memory - and one of the most profound.' --New Statesman

'Irwin brilliantly conjures the mood of the late Sixties, with its blind innocence, fanciful enthusiasms and blissful music' --Literary Review

'I could not put it down until I had read it twice. This is a brilliant, free-ranging, mind-enhancing, life-cautioning book.' --Independent

'Compelling, fascinating and enriching' --Spectator

'This is a heady, insightful and melancholy trip' --Word

'A tale as fluid and as finally mysterious as the life it recounts' --New Statesman

'Packed with extraordinary characters and incidents as well as a generous helping of drugs, sex and rock `n' roll' --London Review Bookshop

'Charged with life, humanity and humour - opens one's eyes to possibilities, which was what the 1960s vibe was about' --Financial Times

'This is a brilliant, free-ranging, mind-enhancing, life-cautioning book. Beware' --Independent

'Robert Irwin's memoir is a fabulously entertaining tale' --Metro

'For the reader, the journey - and the fall - is an illuminating and immensely engrossing one' --Literary Review

'An extraordinary book' --Conde Nast Traveller

Book Description

For many children of the sixties a 'journey to the East' was a necessary rite of passage. In an extraordinary memoir Robert Irwin contrasts the contexts of England - the new culture and the hippy trail - with those of Algeria - bombs and guns and mysticism.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different 60s 20 July 2011
A weird and whacky view of a different sixties. Sex and drungs and rock 'n' roll? No. Sufism and quite some erudition in the world of philosophical meanderings and Islam. Often funny and stimulating. Would it have been as interesting (or accessibl;e) for me if I hadn't been at Oxford and indeed in Algeria at around the same time - albeit moving in very different circles? Dunno. Quite hard work in places and you certainly need an open mind, one not looking for 'answers'. But as a record of one man's 'journey' it is often provoking (in a good way). He writes from a different perspective now with no real clue as to why he reached where he has. But that doesn't matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something remains 19 April 2012
By Joolz
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Francoise Hardy, Velvet Underground, Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear; Frithjof Schuon, Christmas Humphreys, Ouspensky; The Meaning of Life, talking all night, hitch-hiking; Better Books, S.O.A.S, Notting Hill Project; Aleister Crowley, Louis Massignon (but oddly, not Henri Corbin), Shaikh al-Alawi; LSD, speed, strange tobacco. In fact, I didn't buy this because of the 60's nostalgia (I have my own, and don't normally need anyone else's), but because I have liked all of Robert Irwin's books, and like the way he writes, and here his down to earth humour and not infrequent wisdom (of which there are some very nice touches near the end) is given ample scope. But once into the book, almost every reference (except Sufi monastic life and black magic, not my things) had a resonance for me. In short, an autobiography that reads like a cracking good novel. But it is a life, a variety of which we all, of that generation, have, and this is a rather a wonderful one. And, when it's beginning to close, and we have long since "fallen to earth", something of all of that, as in Irwin's case, remains.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Ecstasy 20 Jun 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have ever exprienced spiritual ecstasy -- even or especially unsought for -- Robert Irwin's Memoirs of a Dervish lets you know that you are not the only one. 'Something that nice people don't talk about' he says, and I agree, nobody does. It's a mystery. So exquisite the joy-pain, and it comes and goes where it listeth. But this is only one aspect of the book. Irwin gives us a bewildered and lively view of Oxford student life, a rapid history of Algeria and the Sufi movement. I was most moved, though, in a passage towards the end where he briefly describes his public school days: 'that school had destroyed my childhood.' A review I read of another book said the author was someone who was trying to make sense of the world, and that describes Robert Irwin to me. His dedication is 'To Helen, who rescued me from myself.' I'd like to know when and how -- another book, perhaps.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The inside story of a spiritual journey 19 Jan 2012
I really enjoyed this book; read it twice in fact, which I rarely do. What shines through is the way the essential truth of the author's youthful Sufic exposure triumphed through to his later years, despite the blind alleys of intellectualism and drugs which he also explored from time to time. This is an honest and open account of a spiritual journey, one that moves one to recognize a sincere brother. If I have one lament, it would be in relation to the casual way Mr. Irwin dismisses Subud, which in my opinion and experience, can be said to equate with 'doing the beautiful,' to quote from the Gabriel Hadith.
Emmanuel Elliott
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual High 8 Jun 2011
By spinoza
The review by Mick Brown in the Literary Review (April 2011) begins: "This delightfully eccentric memoir begins with one of the most arresting opening sentences I have read in a long time. 'It was in my first year at Oxford,' Robert Irwin writes, 'that I decided that I wanted to become a Muslim saint'...For the reader, the an illuminating and immensely engrossing one."
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