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Islam Quintet 4: A Sultan in Palermo

By: Ali, Tariq

Language: English


Part of the The Islam Quintet series

Set in medieval Palermo, this is the fourth novel in Tariq Ali’s celebrated Islam Quintet

The fourth novel in Tariq Ali’s Islam Quintet is set in medieval Palermo, a Muslim city rivaling Baghdad and Cordoba in size and splendor. The year is 1153. The Normans occupy Siqilliya, but Arab culture and language dominate the island and the court. Sultan Rujari (King Roger) surrounds himself with Muslim intellectuals, several concubines and an administration presided over by gifted eunuchs.

In this captivating novel, Tariq Ali charts the life and loves of the medieval cartographer, Muhammed al-Idrisi. Torn between his close friendship to the Sultan and his friends who are leaving the island or plotting a resistance to Norman rule, Idrisi finds temporary solace in the harem; but, confronted by the common people of Noto and Catania and the Trusted One, his conscience is troubled.

A Sultan in Palermo is a mythic novel in which pride, greed and lust intermingle with resistance and greatness. It echoes a past that can still be heard today.

«A twelfth-century geographer al-Idrisi had been told by his father of the twelve calligraphers who transcribed Arabic translations of al-Homa’s poetry, working under conditions of such secrecy that if they were even to reveal the nature of their work, ‘the executioner’s scimitar, in a lightning flash, would detach head from body.’ But one of the calligraphers, undaunted, copied out parts of both al-Homa’s poems and sent them to his family in Damascus, along with the information that the complete manuscripts were in secret compartments in the library of Palermo. Generations later, al-Idrisi finds himself in the library at Palermo and, of course, discovers the secret compartment … Whether the subject is heretical poetry, the disunity of the Arabs or the threat that laughter poses to those in power, these digressions only add to the richness of the novel’s texture. A marvelously paced and boisterously told novel of intrigue, love, insurrection and manipulation.» – Guardian

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Product Details
By:Ali, Tariq
Pages: 246 pp
Publisher:Verso, London/NY, 2015
Dimensions:13.5 x 20 cm / 5.25 x 7.75 inches
Topic:Historical Novel - Sultans - Italy

More Information

Tariq Ali (b. 1943, England)
«Ali remains an outlier and intellectual bomb-thrower; an urbane, Oxford-educated polemicist.»
— Observer

Tariq Ali has written more than two-dozen books on world history and politics—the most recent of which are The Clash of Fundamentalisms, The Obama Syndrome and The Extreme Centre—as well as the novels of his Islam Quintet and scripts for the stage and screen. He is a long-standing member of the editorial committee of New Left Review and lives in London.

Islam Quintet 4: A Sultan in Palermo

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