The Book of Saladin

Tariq Ali, Author Verso $25 (367p) ISBN 978-1-85984-834-0
A very different novel from Fear of Mirrors reviewed above, Ali's earthy, lusty saga about the fall of Jerusalem to Muslim forces in 1187 rewrites Eurocentric history by focusing on the historical figure Salah al-Din (better known as Saladin), the Kurdish upstart who used his position as sultan of Egypt and Syria to retake the Holy City from Crusaders. Through Saladin's confidences told to a fictive character--Isaac ibn Yahub, his Jewish scribe, who narrates the story--we not only learn of the sultan's marital woes (his favorite wife is having a lesbian affair with another concubine), we also view the Crusades from a non-Christian point of view. In this fiercely lyrical second installment of a projected tetralogy (following Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree), Ali exposes deep wounds between Christian, Muslim and Jewish civilizations that have yet to heal. A digressive arabesque weaving tales of political intrigue, gay and straight love, betrayal, cross-dressing, rape, assassination and crimes of passion, his tale ripples with implicit parallels to our age: Saladin prepares for ""the mother of all battles""; his army wages a holy war to liberate Palestine; the Muslim nations are bitterly divided into mutually hostile factions. Some may feel Ali takes liberties too freely, as when Ibn Yahub walks in on his adulterous wife having sex with Maimonides, the celebrated Jewish philosopher; yet, throughout, the main characters sustain a fruitful dialogue on life after death, history, the oppression of women and the nature of spiritual and romantic love. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Paperback - 367 pages - 978-1-85984-231-7
Ebook - 367 pages - 978-1-4804-4854-4
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-78168-003-2
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