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The Stone Woman: A Novel

“Ali spins a web of tales that is as inventive and fantastical as the Arabian nights.” —The Times

Each year, when the weather in Istanbul becomes unbearable, the family of Iskender Pasha, a retired Ottoman notable, retires to its summer palace overlooking the Sea of Marmara. It is 1899 and the last great Islamic empire is in serious trouble. A former tutor poses a question which the family has been refusing to confront for almost a century: “Your Ottoman Empire is like a drunken prostitute, neither knowing nor caring who will take her next. Do I exaggerate, Memed?”

The history of Iskender Pasha’s family mirrors the growing degeneration of the Empire they have served for the last five hundred years. This passionate story of masters and servants, school-teachers and painters, is marked by jealousies, vendettas and, with the decay of the Empire, a new generation which is deeply hostile to the half-truths and myths of the “golden days.”

The Stone Woman is the third novel of Tariq Ali’s Islam Quartet. Like its predecessors—Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree and The Book of Saladin—its power lies both in the story-telling and the challenge it poses to stereotyped images of life under Islam.

Reviews

  • “... an Eastern Magic Mountain.”
  • “A richly woven tapestry that, even before its completion, merits comparison with Naguib Mahfouz’s celebrated Cairo Trilogy. A great work in progress.”
  • “Ali spins a web of tales that is as inventive and fantastical as the Arabian nights.”
  • “Tales of anguish, longing, lust and love all find their way to The Stone Woman. Ali paints a vivid picture of a fading world.”
  • “This Chekhov-like scenario of intense emotion within a creaking social structure constructs a rich picture of history and the way we think about history.”

Blog

  • Post Orlando / Post Brexit Anti-Islamophobia Reading List

    Following the tragic Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub, both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called for a return to “the spirit of 9/12,” a reference to a dark period of racism, surveillance, and state sanctioned Islamophobia after the September 11th attacks. In the United Kingdom, instances of xenophobia and Islamophobia have reportedly surged following the EU referendum, leaving migrants and minorities, particularly Muslim women, vulnerable to attack and discrimination. As events unfold and the "Brexit" debates continue, we present a reading list of key titles that shed light on the origins of Islamophobia and ways we can organize to fight it. 

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  • Tariq Ali: 'A Letter from Atlantis'

    Today marks the sixth anniversary of the death of Daniel Bensaïd, one of the most gifted French Marxists of his generation. In this extract from the foreword to Daniel's autobiography, An Impatient Life, Tariq Ali reflects upon his life and thought.



    Successful revolutions always try to reproduce themselves. They usually fail. Napoleon carried the Enlightenment on the end of a bayonet, but English reaction, Spanish nationalism and Russian absolutism, finally defeated him. The triumphant Bolsheviks, disgusted by social-democratic capitulation at the advent of the First World War, orchestrated a split within the working class and formed the Communist International to extend the victory in Petrograd to the entire world. They were initially more successful than the French. Premature uprisings wrecked the revolution in Germany, destroying its finest leaders – Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and many others – and driving the German landed and bourgeois elite into Hitler’s embrace. In Spain, a united front of the European fascist powers (passively assisted by Britain and France) brought Franco to power. In France and Italy, the Communist platoons grew into huge battalions during the Second World War and excercised an unchallenged hegemony within the working class for three decades, but without any meaningful strategy to dismantle capital- ism. Here the close alliance with the narrowly defined needs of the Soviet state precluded any such possibility. Communists in China and Vietnam proved more successful, for a while. The Cuban revolution, the last till now, was no exception. Its leaders, too, were convinced that careful organisation and a handful of armed cadres could succeed anywhere in South America. It was a tragic error, costing the lives of Che Guevara and hundreds of others across the continent.

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  • Video: Tariq Ali, The Twilight of Democracy, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2015

    Tariq Ali discusses ideas outlined in his book The Extreme Centre: A Warning, during this years Festival of Dangerous Ideas. 


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Other books by Tariq Ali