Matt Rees’s picks his top 10 novels set in the Arab world for the Guardian. The Jerusalem-based crime writer selected “novels that offer ‘a much more profound contact’ with this region than the news”, including Tariq Ali’s Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, the first in a quintet of novels that trace the history of Islam. The other novels in this series, The Book of Saladin and The Stone Woman, A Sultan in Palermo are available now and the final novel in the quintet Night of the Golden Butterfly is forthcoming in May.
Spain 1499. A novel set in a disappeared Arab world. In the final days of the Muslim kingdom of Andalus, Ali’s characters feel overwhelmed by encroaching Christian intolerance. He seems to mark it as the moment when the flowering of medieval Islamic culture shifted onto the stultifying road that leads to bin Laden, and when the west began the imperialistic, racist expansion that would converge so devastatingly with that path in the last decade.
See the rest of the top ten here.
Tariq will in conversation at Burgh House, London, on 21 January. Details here.