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

  • Tariq Ali speaks to Democracy Now about the European Union’s Nobel Peace Prize

    November 27, 2012

    The European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year for its historic role in uniting the continent. Committee chair Thorbjoern Jagland praised the EU for transforming Europe “from a continent of wars to a continent of peace.” The selection surprised many as it comes at a time when much of Europe is facing an economic crisis that threatens the EU’s future. Tariq Ali spoke to Democracy Now about the award and the state of the European Union.

    To see the interview visit the Democracy Now website.

  • 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.

  • Tariq Ali on Imperialism, the Arab Spring, and the crisis

    March 23, 2012

    David Barsamian interviewed Tariq Ali in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 26, 2011 for the International Socialist Review.

    The Revolts in the Arab Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in December of 2010, seemingly took the world by surprise. But before we talk about what’s happened in the last year, set the historical context of the post-colonial Arab states.

    Essentially what happened in the Arab world after the Second World War was that the weakening of the British and French empires made it very difficult for them to exercise any real control. So it was only a question of time. Saudi Arabia had already been sorted out during the Second World War itself, when Roosevelt and the American government took charge of the kingdom without a word of thank you to the British. Saudi Arabia was then safe with  …

  • 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.

  • Tariq Ali in Houston, Texas

    January 6, 2012

    January 23, 2012 7.00pm

    Rothko Chapel 1409 Sul Ross St Houston, TX 77006 USA

    Tariq Ali will be discussing and signing copies of his new book On History.  In working together on two challenging new documentaries, South of the Border and the forthcoming Showtime series Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States—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 US 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 US presidents and the Saudi royal family. For Stone and Ali—two of our most insightful  …