The Book of Saladin

The Book of Saladin

Product ID: 7921

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Author: Tariq Ali
Publisher: Alhamra
Year: 2000
Language: English
Pages: 407
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9695160255


Tariq Ali’s latest novel is a rich and teeming chronicle set in twelfth-century Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem. The Book of Saladin is the fictional memoir of Saladin, the Kurdish liberator of Jerusalem, as dictated to a Jewish scribe, Ibn Yakub.

Saladin grants Ibn Yakub permission to talk to his wife and retainers so that he might portray a complete picture of him in his memoirs. A series of interconnected stories follow, tales brimming over with warmth, earthy humor and passions in which ideals clash with realities and dreams are confounded by desires. Betrayed hopes, disillusioned soldiers and unreliable alliances form the backdrop to The Book of Saladin.

This is the second of a planned quartet of historical novels depicting the confrontation between Islamic and Christian civilizations. It has been translated into several languages. The first, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, and the third, The Stone Woman, are also available from alhamra.


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 dreamed.

-Edward Said

In this fiercely lyrical second installment…Ali exposes deep wounds between Christian, Muslim and Jewish civilizations that have yet to heal. A digressive arabesque waving 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.

-Publishers Weekly

Episodic, redolent, of Middle Eastern epic story cycles, The Book of Saladin rearranges the Euro-centric geographical and historical world view… he tells a story rich with human passion and poetry to be above all entertaining as well as illuminating.

-The Guardian

An arresting tapestry of Saladin’s times, interweaving imaginative reconstruction, fictionalized history and Arabian Nights-style erotic fantast.

-The Independent

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…It gives a feeling of how it must have been to be in the company of a great but harried genius and also paints pluralistic and tolerant Islam, a world of philosophical inquiry as well as military prowess.

-The New Statesman

(The Book of Saladin) is a raucous, engaging tale of life in the court of the sultan, a world full of scandal and gossip, knowledge and learning, intertwined with an account of the military maneuvers for which Saladin is famous. This fusion of history and fiction, where Richard is a Lion-Arse not a Lion heart, is clever and entertaining

-The Times

Ali overturns demonizing 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.

-The 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 solidity of historical research.

-Mail on Sunday


Map: The Near East in the Late Twelfth Century

Explanatory Note





Letters to IBN Maymun