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

  • A Review of The Book of Saladin

    November 11, 2008

    The Book of Saladin reviewed by Vinod Joseph in Epic India, November 11, 2008

    In The Book Of Saladin, Tariq Ali goes back a few centuries from his first book, Shadows Of The Pomegranate Tree. This second novel in Tariq Ali’s Islam Quintet is set in the 12th Century and is narrated by Ibn Yakub, a Jewish scribe retained by Saladin to pen his memoirs.

    As the name suggests, The Book Of Saladin revolves around Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and the Sultan of Egypt and Syria. As most people know, Saladin’s biggest achievement was the recapture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders and its defense against subsequent invasions. Tariq Ali has done an excellent job in portraying Saladin’s character. Saladin is not your average, run-of-the-mill brave King who dashes off into danger  …

  • 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.

  • On History: Tariq Ali and Oliver Stone in Coversation

    August 25, 2011

    Published by Haymarket Books, 2011

    In working together on two challenging new documentaries—South of the Border and the forthcoming 13-part, 13-hour Untold History of the United States series for Showtime—filmmaker Oliver Stone engaged with author and filmmaker Tariq Ali in a probing, hard-hitting conversation on the politics of history. Their dialogue brings to light a number of forgotten—or deliberately buried—episodes of American history, from the U.S. intervention against the Russian Revolution, to the dynamic radicalism of the Wobblies, how Henry Wallace’s nomination for the vice-presidency was deliberately thwarted by Democratic Party machine insiders, to the ongoing close connections between various U.S. presidents and the Saudi royal family. For Stone and Ali—two of our most insightful observers on history and popular culture—no topic is sacred, no orthodoxy goes unchallenged.

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  • 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.

  • ‘Official politics in the west ignores public opinion at will’

    February 27, 2007

    ‘Official politics in the west ignores public opinion at will’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, February 27, 2007

    The government crisis in Italy over US bases and Afghanistan reflects the increasing gap in Europe between rulers and ruled

    The states of western Europe continue to resist harmonisation. On the same day last week that the chicaneries of every antiquated careerist vying for the New Labour deputy leadership were made public, each justifying his or her grotesque decision to support the war and occupation of Iraq, the centre-left Italian government—not yet a year old—fell after a debate on foreign policy in the upper chamber.

    It was not Iraq that was at issue here. Unlike New Labour (protected by undemocratic electoral laws and MPs unmoved by the suffering in Iraq), all of the Italian left and 80% of the  …