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

  • Tariq Ali on Russia Today: ‘Syrian rebels create mayhem to blame it on Assad regime’

    July 16, 2012

    Moscow says those behind the latest massacre in Syria want to unleash sectarian violence and ignite full civil war. Over two hundred people are believed to have been killed in the central province of Hama. Both government and rebel forces blame each other for the slaughter – while the UN remains paralysed on whether to extend its observer mission, or impose sanctions. Russia Today talks to author and Middle East expert Tariq Ali from London.

  • The Scotsman interviews Tariq Ali

    July 26, 2010

    Tariq Ali interviewed by Claire Black for The Scotsman, July 26, 2010

    Standing on the doorstep of Tariq Ali’s impressive Highgate house, the echo of the rung bell fading, it feels like an auspicious day to visit. Flicking through the paper on a stuttering train en route to leafy North London, there was a story about the first public sighting for four years of the 82-year-old Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.

    Wearing a white, Nike tracksuit and looking spritely for an octogenarian, it transpires the pictures are a first volley in a media salvo mainly aimed at the US by the veteran revolutionary. Given that Ali, the Pakistani-born, London-based historian, novelist and firebrand commentator, has a long-standing antipathy to what he describes as American “imperialism”, I assume the photographs will at the very least, amuse him.

    As it turns  …