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The Book of Saladin: A Novel Hardcover – 10 Nov 1998


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (10 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859848346
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859848340
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 16.2 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,537,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Mar 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a satisfying novel, told, despite its exotic settings, in sparse prose carrying a ring of authenticity reminiscent at times of Naguib Mahfouz. The book deals in complex and subtle people who question the nature of the relationship between body and soul and ponder the purposes of war, not in easy steretypes or generalisations, even in an area which has been traditionally replete with them. It is illuminationg to have the Saladin story told by a writer who has immersed himself in the 'other side'. Tariq Ali's novel creates an authentic-seeming court, full of intrigue, dominated by a man who is charismatic yet not a hero of romance, a rather hesitant, limping figure, a Sultan whose preferred diet is soup and beans. In Saladin's entourage are strong and intelligent women, the Sultana Jamila and her female lover, and their story is interwoven with that of the Sultan's public life. It may be controversial to assign such dominance to the women in a harem, but these are characters in a convincing story with a reality beyond that of historical cliche.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Hud on 10 Oct 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd heard of Tariq Ali as a political animal and didnt know what to expect. I was surprised. This book is written in style, almost like a story your mother might have told you when putting you to pbed, except of course no mother would read a child this particular story so full of life, sex and death.
The story of how a man through sheer force of will united the squabbling emirs to re-take Jerusalem (Al-Kuds) is breath-taking. I kept on putting off my job, my family until I could finish this book.
It is not a history book. It is a heroic tale - one which deserves to be told over and over again. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Taylor VINE VOICE on 20 Sep 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very human novel. Its a simple story of peoples lives, their day to day problems and concerns, their loves and losses. It is so easy to read like a soap opera where you are drawn into wanting to know what happens next. The fact that the concerns of the characters include a jealous lesbian whose lover has been sleeping with a eunuch, planning the strategy of the crusade against the infidels or political letter writing are made to seem matter of fact. The easy style of writing however hides an eternal truth which is that human nature doesn't change over time and one can always learn from the experience of human interaction.
An excellent evocation of a slice of human life and an easy and enjoyable read. My only critisism is that the novel is relatively expensive - and therefore doesn't have the wide distribution accorded to other far less worthy tomes.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By asrarul@yahoo.com on 21 May 2002
Format: Paperback
It is difficult to put this book down once started. After some time the characters become a part of the reader’s own life. Ali, with his genius in play writing, knows how to keep the reader glued to the pages while finishing each chapter— in the Arabian Nights tradition—there is more to come. This novel is historical fiction at its best!
The Book of Saladin is Mr Tariq Ali’s second in his series of Islamic fiction and by par the most historical. The other two titles are “Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree” and “The Stone Woman”.
“The Book of Saladin”, as the title suggests, is the life of Salah-Al-Din, Saladin to the Western ear, the Great Muslim leader whose name and legend goes parallel with the Crusades after he re-conquered Jerusalem in 1187. The principal characters of the novel, Saladin, his father, sons and nephews, and Ibn Maymun (Maimonides to the Western ear), the Jewish historian are all historical characters. The narrator, Ibn Yakub, Shadi, Jamila and Halima, Amjad the eunuch et al are fictional characters.
The book is divided into three main sections depicting Salah-Al-Din’s life in Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem. The last section is personal letters of Ibn Yakub to Ibn Maymun. Each chapter describes events like old chronicles with the grace of fairy tales from the Arabian Nights. At the same time, the book describes life of the time.
The book starts with the narrator, Isaac ibn Yakub, sharing a light meal and deep conversation with his friend, Ibn Maymun. They are interrupted by a knock at the door. Salah-Al-Din, whom Ibn Yakub does not recognise, has come with an extraordinary request to ask Ibn Yakub to be his personal chronicler.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 Feb 1999
Format: Hardcover
Saladin, a Kurd by birth, led the Muslim reconquest of Jerusalem from the Crusaders.
Tariq Ali tells the story of the reconquest from the Muslim side. His narrator is Ibn Yakub, a Jews and friend of Ibn Maimum (Maimonides). Intertwined with the history is much court intrigue, including sexual intrigue reflecting divers appetites.
Interesting history and a good read.
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