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4.4 out of 5 stars33
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 4 May 2012
I have (had?) no interest in the history of Persia or Turkey, but was advised by a friend that this was a good book. This book is so good. I read the first three-quarters in two days, then delayed getting to the end for a month. Beautifully written, incisive, thought-provoking, I have resolved to read it again - an honour I give few books. Brilliant, a must-read if you're interested in people, places, lifestyles or love. And if you're not interested in any of those...
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on 2 July 2003
Samarkand is a lust and a must for everyone with an interest in the history of the Islamic world. Set against the background of 10th century Persia, invading Turks, the sekt of the Assassins and the fading of Islam as a quite liberal religion Malouf not writes but depicts his story. Knowing a bit of the history of the region and the backgrounds of Islam helps. Samarkand is a wonderful gate into a world so many people nowadays unrightfully fear.
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on 6 March 2016
Prompted by a growing interest in the spice routes of the middle ages and having been thoroughly delighted by Leo Africanus, I decided to read Samarkand. Maalouf must be commended for his ambitious attempt to weave romantic fiction in historical events that span nine centuries.
While I must admit to have learned a lot and enjoyed flipping its pages, I parted with the book feeling unsatisfied. Pandering to both the occidental and oriental reader, he creates two largely independent stories - with protagonists from each side of the globe - and loosely connects them with the story of Omar Khayyam's fictional 'original' Rubaiyaat manuscript. The result is a book that lacks focus and impact.

The text suffers from far too many grammar and typing errors (this book could do with a proper proofread). This lack of finesse compounded my sense that Omar Khayyam and Persia deserved more focus when having their stories told.

All in all, the book is an interesting way to learn about Persian history (but you will have to work your way to weed fiction from fact); literary masterpiece it is not.
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on 8 July 2000
I had high expectations when I started reading this since I had already read Leo Africanus and The Crusades Through Arab Eyes and loved them. The book is a great introduction to Omar Khayyam and his quatrains although it is a historical "novel". It gives you quite an education on a number of ancient historical figures and major events. Examples are the Mongol Empire and the sect of the Assassins. I was particularly interested in the Assassins where the modern use of the word comes from and a major part of the story deals with them. I would recommend it to anyone who relishes history and a good read.
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on 24 May 2000
I found this book hard work in the first few pages but by the end of chapter one I had entered the enchanted world of medieval Islam complete with schisms, love, murder and poetry and swept into the genius of the Omar Khayam. A highly recommended and critical insight into a fascinating thinker of world class importance.
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on 10 January 2010
This book was my first tast of Maalouf having come across it for a 90% discount in the Borders closing down tale. It transported me to a world so beautiful and real i coul almost touch it. Amin Maalouf is a master story teller with few equals in this age
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on 29 July 2015
A truly remarkable book. In this thoroughly researched work the author displays a stunningly profound understanding of Iran and its people. Weaving fact and fiction seamlessly together the early chapters provide a fascinating and convincing insight into life in 11th century Persia. The relationship between Omar Khayyam and his contemporary Hassan-i-Sabah, the founder of the Assassins is illuminating. The last part of the book is brilliantly thought out and presented. Covering the relatively recent history of Iran in the late 18th and early 19th centuries - the period of the so-called 'Great Game' between the UK and the Russians - it should be on the 'must read' list of any journalist or politician trying to grapple with the politics and intrigues of modern day Iran.
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on 26 November 2001
A remarkable, beautifully written peace of work - both rich in its language and detail, and enlightening in its content.
The novel presents us with great insights into the history of the middle east and allows us to see why there are so many hatreds between the "east" and the "west". Yet he also shows, with his brilliant merging of fact and fiction, that in the deep philosophies of life, there need not be so many differences between the cultures afterall.
Moreover, he does this in a way that is extremely fascinating and readable - it is truly difficult to put the book down once it is in your hands.
Maalouf makes the ancient world come to life in front of your eyes with his vivid descriptions and characterisation. Truly brilliant.
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on 18 October 2014
An excellent read for any lover of Omar Khayyam verse. The book also gives a good look into certain aspects of Persian and Islamic complexities in the 11th and 12th centuries with the establishment of the Assassin cult.
The tongue in cheek narrative by the "author"( not Amin) about the original Khayyam document and his search and subsequent privileged viewing of it is an entertaining way of avoiding a dry historical script.
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on 12 September 2014
Phenomenal. Really, the best example of historical fiction you could ask for, and it covers so much. I was upset when the story transitioned from 11C Persia to the constitutional revolution period at the turn of the 20C, simply because I had been so immersed in world of Omar Kayyam Maalouf had created, but soon enough I was completely swept up in the second setting the book takes you too. What a way to learn about the world we live in.
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