Vladimir Bartol: Alamut

September 22, 2010

51aGnYrOPZL._AA160_I first came across the name ‘Alamut’, which was the fortress of the hashishin/assassins in mediaeval Persia, when I read Amin Maalouf’s beautiful novel ‘Samarkand’; this novel looks at the same place and time through the eyes of the poet Omar Khayyam. ‘Alamut’ is much darker, exploring how the myth of heaven with seventy virgins at your service as the reward for suicide warriors was first created and used. It is a novel, but Bartol does manage to take you right inside the mindset of the warriors, and also the man who realised the destructive potential available to him if he could manipulate vulnerable minds in this way.

Recent history in the Middle East and elsewhere is enlightened, and yet this novel, by a Slovenian writer I’d never heard of, was written and published before the Second World War. It’s well translated, nicely published, and a chilling read.

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