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The Book of Saladin: A Novel (Islam Quintet 2) Paperback – 2 Dec 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New edition edition (2 Dec. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859842313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859842317
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.8 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 340,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Tariq Ali has been one of our national treasures for almost five decades: revolutionary, writer, broadcaster, film maker, polemicist--fighter in the street (the title of his vivid Sixties memoir)--and general all-round trouble-maker (in the nicest possible sense) he's been them all, and usually at the same time. Since 1990 Ali has also worked in fiction, firstly with Redemption, and now with a planned quartet of historical novels, of which The Book of Saladin is the second. (The first was the award-winning, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree).

Ali's passion for life, and his humour, are found all over this latest work which is set in the 12th century--with eerily prescient echoes of modern times. It shows us the conflict between Christian and Islamic civilisations set to a humorous, sometimes bawdy, sometimes brutal background where all of life is in flux.

As with his previous novel Ali shows the depth and breadth of his learning and humanity on every page. Like his central character Saladin, or Salah-al-Din (the Kurdish liberator of Jerusalem), Ali has been a fighter of many causes, a maker of alliances, who has made an impact on the world around him; unlike his hero Ali has never been a Sultan, nor a warrior, except a class one, of course. But between them--Ali and his warrior King-- readers can discover much of both history and contemporary life in the melting pot of world religion. --Robin Hunt --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"The Book of Saladin is the second in a quartet of novels by Tariq Ali on the long encounter between Western Christendom and the world of Islam. Grippingly well told, brilliantly paced, remarkably convincing in its historical depiction of a fateful relationship, it is a narrative for our time, haunted by distant events and characters who are closer to us than we had dreamed." - Edward Said "Ali overturns demonising stereotypes of Salah-al-Din, portraying instead the 'barbarian' Western invaders. Whether depicting erotically charged harem intrigue or siege warfare, The Book of Saladin is an entertaining feat of revisionist storytelling." -- Simon Carnell, Sunday Times "Ali's new historical novel... is told in a manner which combines the incantatory storytelling of the great Middle Eastern anthologies with the solidarity of historical research." - Philip Hensher, Mail on Sunday "Fiercely lyrical. Weaving political intrigue, gay and straight love, betrayal, cross-dressing, rape, assassination and crimes of passion, Ali's tale ripples with implicit parallels to our age." -- Publishers Weekly

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A beautifully written piece. Tariq Ali transports you back to a time in world history that is all to easily forgotten. He presents this fascinating era in such a way as to have contemporary relavance.
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