Night of the Golden Butterfly

Published by Verso, 2010

The final volume in Tariq Ali’s acclaimed cycle of historical novels, The Islam Quintet

Night of the Golden Butterfly concludes the Islam Quintet—Tariq Ali’s much lauded series of historical novels, translated into more than a dozen languages, that has been twenty years in the writing. Completing an epic panorama that began in fifteenth-century Moorish Spain, the latest novel moves between the cities of the twenty-first century, from Lahore to London, from Paris to Beijing. The narrator is rung one morning and reminded that he owes a debt of honour. The creditor is Mohammed Aflatun—known as Plato—an irascible but gifted painter living in a Pakistan where “human dignity has become a wreckage.” Plato, who once specialized in stepping back into the limelight, now wants his life story written.

As the tale unravels we meet Plato’s London friend Alice Stepford, now a leading music critic in New York; Mrs. “Naughty” Latif, the Islamabad housewife whose fondness for generals leads to her flight to the salons of intellectually fashionable Paris, where she is hailed as the Diderot of the Islamic world; and there’s Jindie, the Golden Butterfly of the title, the narrator’s first love. Interwoven with this chronicle of contemporary life is the turbulent history of Jindie’s family. Her great forebear, Dù Wénxiù, led a Muslim rebellion in Yunnan in the nineteenth century and ruled the region from his capital Dali for almost a decade, as Sultan Suleiman. Night of the Golden Butterfly reveals Ali in full flight, at once imaginative and intelligent, satirical and stimulating.

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Reviews: The National, New Statesman, The Independent, Scotsman, Daily Mail, Guardian, Portland Oregonian, Georgia Straight, Herald (Karachi), Gulf News

From the archive

  • ‘Pakistan on the Brink’

    March 30, 2000

    ‘Pakistan on the Brink’ by Tariq Ali for The Nation, March 30, 2000

    Pakistan today is a complete mess, a sad example of what can happen when a once-favored “frontline state” is reduced to the status of a cold war orphan. In his recent brief visit President Clinton urged a quick return to civilian rule, but in fact few Pakistanis mourn Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s overthrow last October of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s corrupt and oppressive pseudo-democracy. The poor and the secular-liberal intelligentsia pray that the new military regime will prevent a slide toward further chaos. These hopes are likely to be dashed, since the regime is paralyzed by internal divisions. Mohammed Aziz and Mahmoud Ahmed, the two key generals flanking Musharraf, are known for their sympathies with the fundamentalist Taliban.

    Several tests confront the new strongman of Pakistan:  …

  • Tariq Ali en Zaragoza, Pamplona/Iruña y Madrid – 15,16 y 17 de febrero de 2011

    February 9, 2011

    Tariq Ali en Zaragoza, Pamplona/Iruña y Madrid. 15,16 y 17 de febrero de 2011

    La Universidad Nómada presenta el ciclo de charlas, conferencias e intervenciones de Tariq Ali en Zaragoza, Pamplona/Iruña y Madrid para analizar cuáles son las tendencias de la presidencia de Barack Obama, las líneas centrales de su comportamiento como presidente de Estados Unidos tanto en política exterior e interior y las alianzas que está recreando en su país y en la escena internacional para implementar su proyecto político. También pretende evaluar el grado en que durante los dos primeros años de su mandato sus políticas han conseguido fracturar o romper en Estados Unidos e internacionalmente los grandes compromisos económicos, sociales, políticos y culturales. Se trata de evaluar su presidencia y las potencialidades de la misma para discutir qué tipo de políticas pueden llevar a cabo los movimientos.

     …

  • Tariq Ali discusses the legacy of Margaret Thatcher on Democracy Now!

    April 9, 2013

     

    Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87. Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister, serving three terms in office. Known as the “Iron Lady,” Thatcher became synonymous with austerity economics as a close ally of President Ronald Reagan. She famously declared to critics of neoliberal capitalism that “there is no alternative.” Her long-running battle with striking British miners dealt a major blow to the union movement in Britain and ushered in a wave of privatizations. On foreign policy, Thatcher presided over the Falklands War with Argentina, provided critical support to the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and famously labeled Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” while backing South Africa’s apartheid regime. Tariq Ali discusses her legacy with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!