The Stone Woman – Islam Quintet III

Published by Verso, 2001

Book three in the epic five volume series of historical novels, The Islam Quintet

Each year, when the weather in Istanbul becomes unbearable, the family of Iskender Pasha, a retired Ottoman notable, retires to its summer palace overlooking the Sea of Marmara. It is 1899 and the last great Islamic empire is in serlous trouble. A former tutor poses a question which the family has been refusing to confront for almost a century: “Your Ottoman Empire is like a drunken prostitute, neither knowing nor caring who will take her next. Do I exaggerate, Memed?”

The history of Iskender Pasha’s family mirrors the growing degeneration of the Empire they have served for the last five hundred years. This passionate story of masters and servants, school-teachers and painters, is marked by jealousies, vendettas and, with the decay of the Empire, a new generation which is deeply hostile to the half-truths and myths of the “golden days.“

Like its predecessors—Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree and The Book of Saladinthe power of The Stone Woman lies both in the story-telling and the challenge it poses to stereotyped images of life under Islam.

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Reviews: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

From the archive

  • An Interview with Amerasia Journal

    August 1, 2007

    This interview was conducted via e-mail during the summer of 2007 by Russell Leong for Amerasia Journal, with assistance from Stephanie Santos (Amerasia Journal 33: 3; 2007)

    Amerasia (AJ:): You have written much about institutions that act as enablers or pillars of empire. How do you see the role of minority immigrants and refugees, who are intimate subjects of the empire? For example, South Asians and Muslims in England, Turks in Germany, Africans and southeast Asians in Italy, and ethnic minorities in the United States. They are first-, second-, or third-generation citizens, who are both part of but also apart from empire. What potential roles can they play in forming alternative cultural and political voices within empire?

    Ali (TA:): The narratives in this regard are multiple. No universalist response is possible. Immigrants and the countries to which they migrate are so  …

  • The Saudi Kleptocracy: ‘In Princes’ Pockets’

    June 19, 2007

    ‘In Princes’ Pockets’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, July 19, 2007

    The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

    ‘Where’s your mother?’

    ‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

    The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society. US intelligence agencies engaged in routine surveillance were, to their immense surprise, picking up unguarded cellphone  …

  • ‘Musharraf will be gone in days’

    August 14, 2008

    ‘Musharraf will be gone in days’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, August 14, 2008

    The Pakistani president is likely to quit soon. But don’t expect democracy to rush in: the military’s habits die hard

    There is never a dull moment in Pakistan. As the country moved from a moth-eaten dictatorship to a moth-eaten democracy the celebrations were muted. Many citizens wondered whether the change represented a forward movement.

    Five months later, the moral climate has deteriorated still further. All the ideals embraced by the hopeful youth and the poor of the country—political morality, legality, civic virtue, food subsidies, freedom and equality of opportunity—once again lie at their feet, broken and scattered. The widower Bhutto and his men are extremely unpopular. The worm-eaten tongues of chameleon politicians and resurrected civil servants are on daily display. Removing Musharraf, who  …