A Sultan in Palermo – Islam Quintet IV

Published by Verso, 2005

The fourth and penultimate novel in Tariq Ali’s celebrated Islam Quintet

A Sultan in Palermo is set in medieval Palermo, a Muslim city rivaling Baghdad and Cordoba in size and splendor. The year is 1153. The Normans are ruling Siqqiliya, but Arab culture and language dominate the island and the court. Sultan Rujari (King Roger) surrounds himself with Muslim intellectuals, several concubines, and an administration presided over by gifted eunuchs. The bishops, expecting to be at the pinnacle of power, are angered by the decadence of the court. In this captivating novel, Tariq Ali charts the life and loves of the medieval cartographer Muhammed al-Idrisi. Torn between his close friendship with the sultan and his friends who are leaving the island or plotting a resistance to Norman rule, Idrisi finds temporary solace in the harem; but, confronted by the common people of Noto and Catania, his conscience is troubled. A Sultan in Palermo is a mythic novel in which pride, greed, and lust intermingle with resistance and greatness. Though set in the past, it has haunting resonance today.

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Reviews: The Guardian, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

From the archive

  • ‘Pakistan will not forget’

    October 13, 2005

    ‘Pakistan will not forget’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, October 12, 2005

    Why have US, German and British forces in Afghanistan not been mobilised to save lives?

    The scale of the disaster has traumatised the entire country—or perhaps not quite. Here in Lahore a group of people collecting funds for earthquake relief were apprehended and charged. They were amassing money for themselves. Even in the midst of devastation, life goes on. The global media have descended on the country, their reports repeating the same images and the same banal comments every few minutes. Soon they will move on, so that when they are really needed, to monitor relief efforts and reconstruction or keep watch on the funds, they will no longer be there. The citizens of the west will also forget. But Pakistan will never be able  …

  • ‘From the Ashes of Gaza’

    December 30, 2008

    ‘From the Ashes of Gaza’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, December 30, 2008

    In the face of Israel’s latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution

    The assault on Gaza, planned over six months and executed with perfect timing, was designed largely, as Neve Gordon has rightly observed, to help the incumbent parties triumph in the forthcoming Israeli elections. The dead Palestinians are little more than election fodder in a cynical contest between the right and the far right in Israel. Washington and its EU allies, perfectly aware that Gaza was about to be assaulted, as in the case of Lebanon in 2006, sit back and watch.

    Washington, as is its wont, blames the pro-Hamas Palestinians, with Obama and Bush singing from the same AIPAC hymn sheet. The EU  …