Robert Irwin, Author . Overlook $14.95 (266p) ISBN 978-1-58567-217-2

Irwin's reissued 1983 classic combines the genres of travelogue, fable, dream narrative, novel and confessional into one beguiling whole. Balian, an English spy hired by France to go on a fact-finding mission to Cairo in 1486, is surprised when one of his fellow travelers is kidnapped. He is even more surprised when he is afflicted by the "Arabian Nightmare": he begins to have very confusing dreams and wakes up bleeding from the nose and mouth. A mysterious figure named the Father of the Cats claims to want to help Balian—but does he? To make matters worse, there are rumors that a vicious murderer is on the loose in Cairo. Every attempt Balian makes to leave the city is foiled, as one supposedly well-intentioned figure after another leads him into the ever-deepening maze of the city's underworld, populated by whores, laughing dervishes, talking apes and lepers who all weave their respective spells with distinct power. Moving gracefully through a boggling number of reversals, stories-within-stories, and false solutions, the narrative winds its way toward a conclusion as baffling and profound as everything that has preceded it. There are plenty of moments when the story becomes too confusing to follow—but this is clearly part of the plan. A work of fiction with the subtle, intoxicating architecture of a poem, this cult favorite clearly deserves renewed exposure and consideration. B&w illus. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 266 pages - 978-1-873982-73-0
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-7139-9105-5
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-14-011216-0
Paperback - 266 pages - 978-1-873982-05-1
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-009863-1
Hardcover - 281 pages - 978-0-670-81661-3
Paperback - 342 pages - 978-1-86064-983-7
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