Altai: A Novel

Altai is a great historical thriller and the prose has all the surface glitter of the Grand Canal or the Golden Horn.” – Edward Stourton, Financial Times

When a fire rips through the Venetian Arsenal in 1569, the enigmatic Emanuele De Zante, spy-catcher and secret agent, is betrayed by his lover, imprisoned, and accused of treason. Given the chance to escape, he embarks on a trans-European odyssey that will test his loyalty and force him to question even his own identity.

Through a series of deadly political games leading all the way to the Sultan’s palace in Constantinople, De Zante and his companions spiral headfirst toward a conflict in which the great empires of the Republic of Venice and the Ottomans threaten the very foundations of civilization.


  • Altai is a great historical thriller and the prose has all the surface glitter of the Grand Canal or the Golden Horn… For a city break in Venice, Dubrovnik or Istanbul, this is perfect read as it is.”
  • “[An] expertly crafted novel.”
  • “A triumph of swashbuckling storytelling, a historical romp.”
  • “If you loved Q; no, if you were swept away by a passion that became an addiction to that monumental novel, take a deep breath and start reading again.”
  • “After a little more conversation both Wu Mings seemed to have rekindled their interest in their old work and asked me if I understood the parallels between the historical world Altai deals with and the political situation today. I told them this wasn’t a problem for me but I quickly gave up trying to disentangle their fiction from historical fact because the two were so closely interwoven. There was a gleam in Wu Ming 1’s eye when he replied: 'That’s because we worked the fiction into tiny historical cracks.'”
  • “Skillfully written ... it is difficult not to shiver.”
  • “If you like your historical fiction with plenty of explosions and Turkish-inflected interjections, this is right up your alley.”
  • “Unspools mesmerisingly like an old Hollywood movie.”
  • “A highly compelling epic of great beauty and power.”
  • “A rich, inventive and immensely powerful book – Q is a great novel, one that tells us about ourselves and how we came to be here.”
  • “Imagine Umberto's eco knack for the swashbuckling thriller-of-ideas crossed with an artful touch of the Le Carré's – it boasts pace, colour, excitement and suspense to spare – Q works like a charm as a sordid, splendid period romp.”
  • “Unputdownable.”
  • “A great historical thriller and the prose has all the surface glitter of the Grand Canal or the Golden Horn … this is perfect.”
  • “Big and bloody and breathtaking: a crush of colour and crowds, exotic locations and war.”
  • “Their books sizzle with a kind of lefty jazz: they’re linguistically and culturally hip, historically astute, with a heart worn challengingly on the sleeve.”
  • “Fans of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, grab it now.”


  • Verso's Summer Reads 2015

    No matter which body of water you'll be sluicing your speedos in this summer, Verso's got your back.  From forty proud years of radical publishing, we've cherry-picked an eclectic mix of fiction, travel, politics, philosophy, feminism, art, graphic novels and more for your delectation this summer.

    Whether you're reacquainting yourself with an old classic or taking a chance with one of our latest titles, all books on this list will be 50% off on our website for this week (July 9-July 17), with free worldwide shipping, and free ebook where available.  Just be careful around the pool with your e-reader eh?

    A lovely picture of Theodor Adorno in his swimwear, with a copy Narcoland presumably tucked away out of shot.

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    Plus every title is 50% off with FREE shipping for the rest of December!

    For more inspiration check out our FREE e-book sampler with highlights from our 2014 list, including pieces from Arundhati Roy, Benjamin Kunkel, Gabriella Coleman, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Shlomo Sand, Walter Benjamin and Slavoj Žižek.


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  • 2014 Verso Highlights! 50% off!

    Politics, Feminism, Philosophy, Memoir - it's all covered here in our 2014 end-of-year highlights. Don't forget, all our books are 50% off for the month of December! Get your order in early to make sure you get them in time for Christmas!


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Other books by Wu Ming Translated by Shaun Whiteside