Anne-Marie Eddé, trans. from the French by Jane Marie Todd. Harvard Univ, $35 (662p) ISBN 978-0-674-05559-9
In this insightful biography, the Muslim hero who impressed even his Christian adversaries personifies the complex religious and cultural dynamics of the crusading era. French medievalist Eddé gives a lucid if plodding recap of the career of the Kurdish conqueror who united Syria and Egypt, recaptured Jerusalem from the Europeans, and fought Richard the Lion-heart to a draw in the Third Crusade. He gained a reputation even among his enemies for chivalry, trustworthiness, and magnanimity. Twelfth-century magnanimity, however, did not preclude his enslaving thousands of prisoners, beheading many others who refused his generous offer of a reprieve if they converted to Islam, or ordering the execution of a rationalist philosopher who riled clerics. Eddé, indifferently translated by Todd, picks carefully through tendentious, often hagiographic medieval sources to assemble an objective portrait of Saladin, and sifts the legends surrounding him—many of them self-generated—for clues to the ideologies of his day; presented by himself and others as the defender of a sacred community against a cruel, impious, animalistic Christian Other, he was even to Europeans the mirror image of the Crusader. Eddé’s shrewd and informative, if stolid, biography shows us how much two clashing civilizations had in common. 20 color illus.; 9 maps. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/12/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
Paperback - 660 pages - 978-0-674-28397-8
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