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

  • Novembre: Paris – Aix-en-Provence – Avignon

    October 21, 2011

    Jeudi 3 Novembre, 19H 00 PARIS: Centre national du livre, Hôtel d’Avejan, 53, rue de Verneuil – Paris VIIe La Nuit du Papillon d’or

    C’est avec La Nuit du Papillon d’or, publié aux éditions Sabine Wespieser que se clôt le Quintet de l’islam de Tariq Ali. Cette « Comédie humaine de l’islam », retrace en cinq romans l’histoire des conflits entre l’Occident chrétien et la civilisation islamique, de l’an 1153 à nos jours. On retrouve bien, dans cet éblouissant cinquième volet du Quintet de l’islam, Tariq Ali tel qu’en lui-même : drôle, imaginatif, intelligent, satirique et diablement informé.

    “[Ces histoires] montrent aux Occidentaux comme aux musulmans mal informés que l’islam n’est pas synonyme de djihad. Que son histoire est celle d’une culture riche, tolérante et qui a eu ses Lumières”, expliquait récemment Tariq Ali dans une interview accordée au Monde.

    Soirée animée par Florence Noiville, journaliste au Monde.  …

  • ‘Try and disarm us, if you can’

    April 15, 1999

    ‘Try and disarm us, if you can’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, April 15, 1999

    Tariq Ali finds old friends and new enemies in Lahore

    Islamabad remains the official capital, but these days real power in Pakistan is exercised from the Punjabi capital of Lahore. This city, dry, warm and abundant, where I spent the first 20 years of my life and which I still love, is always changing, usually for the worse. The old Mall at its lower end, near Kim’s Gun, was once the haunt of bohemians of every sort. Poets, artists, left-wing intellectuals, film directors could be seen at their tables in the Coffee House, cursing the dictator of the day or discussing the merits of blank verse as they dipped their samosas in a mint-chilli compote and sipped tea throughout  …

  • ‘The same old racket in Iraq’

    December 13, 2003

    ‘The same old racket in Iraq’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, December 13, 2003

    To the victors, the spoils: Bush’s colonialism will only deepen resistance

    Iraq remains a country of unbearable suffering, the sort that only soldiers and administrators acting on behalf of states and governments are capable of inflicting on their fellow humans. It is the first country where we can begin to study the impact of a 21st-century colonisation. This takes place in an international context of globalisation and neo-liberal hegemony. If the economy at home is determined by the primacy of consumption, speculation as the main hub of economic activity and no inviolate domains of public provision, only a crazed utopian could imagine that a colonised Iraq would be any different.

    The state facilities that were so carefully targeted with bombs and shells have  …