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 interviews John Lennon on revolution and politics

    December 10, 2013

    In this fascinating interview conducted for Red Mole, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn interview John Lennon at his home, discussing Lennon’s political beliefs and ideological attitude. Tariq Ali remembered their meeting for the Guardian, 30 years after Lennon’s assassination, this week in 1980.

    The day after the interview he rang me and said he had enjoyed it so much that he’d written a song for the movement, which he then proceeded to sing down the line: Power to the People. The events in Derry on Bloody Sunday angered him greatly and he subsequently suggested that he wished to march on the next Troops Out demonstration on Ireland, and did so, together with Yoko Ono, wearing Red Mole T-shirts and holding the paper high. Its headline was: “For the IRA, Against British Imperialism”.’

    The full transcript of the interview can be  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘A life in writing: Tariq Ali’

    May 8, 2010

    Tariq Ali profiled by James Campbell for the Guardian to celebrate the launch of Night of the Golden Butterfly, May 8, 2010

    In photographs and news footage of political demonstrations of the 1960s, Tariq Ali is unmistakeable: the thick black hair and thatchy moustache; the clenched fist and characteristic surge to the foreground amid a sea of fair faces. Almost immediately on coming down from Oxford in 1966, Ali began to agitate for a workers’ uprising—not just in Britain but across the world. His book 1968 and After: Inside the Revolution (1978) stressed “the key importance of the working class as the only agency of social change”. His hero was Che Guevara. Meeting Malcolm X at an Oxford Union debate in 1964, he was pleased to discover that Malcolm was “a great admirer of Cuba and  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘How Obama surrendered at home and waged war abroad’

    October 31, 2010

    ‘How Obama surrendered at home and waged war abroad’ by Tariq Ali for the Daily Telegraph, October 30, 2010

    As the midterms rapidly approach, the beleaguered US President’s ratings are in steep decline, putting him on the defensive with little to offer his supporters except fine words. Those supporters have been voicing their discontent on the television networks but, much more seriously, are likely to punish Obama by staying at home and ignoring the ballot box on Tuesday.

    Indeed, this has been a humiliating time for the once seemingly messianic President. This week’s decision for Obama to appear on the US satirical current affairs TV programme The Daily Show – which is largely watched by liberal voters – was a disaster. The audience openly laughed at him; the presenter, Jon Stewart, gave Obama the honour of being the first  …