"Alamut" is a brilliant paradox. A twentieth-century Slovenian novelist living in Trieste drew characters from eleventh-century Persia and wove an allegory of the fascism engulfing Europe at the dawn of World War II. In the twenty-first century, in a triumph of metathesis and anachronism worthy of Jorge Luis Borges, the allegory has become more real than the events it portrayed.
This masterpiece, admired enough to be translated into nineteen languages, a bestseller throughout Western Europe, and an inspiration for video games ("The Secrets of Alamut" and "Assassin's Creed") has never had its moments in English. Now, thanks to a sparkling translation by Michael Biggins, "Alamut" is available to a whole new audience.
If you want to know how suicide bombers are being cultivated in Basra and Hebron even as you read these words, if you want to learn the true story behind the 72 virgins waiting at al-Qaeda's martyrs in paradise, "Alamut" is the training manual. Bartol tells us who those women are, how they got there, and why young men are willing to die for their company.