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Alamut by Vladimir Bartol

About author

Vladimir Bartol is a Slovenian writer. He was born in 1903 and died in 1967, so he survived 1st and 2nd world war. Bartol was going to school in Trieste in Italy but after fascism started to rise, he was forced to move to school to Ljubljana in Slovenia. He finished studying biology and philosophy with doctorate. In Belgrade, he was the editor of newspaper Slovenian Belgrade weekly. He liked Sigmund Freud and his works. On Bartol`s writing work had influence Friedrich Nietzsche, ideas of Machiavelli, expressionism and psychoanalysis. He wrote Alamut while he lived in Paris, it is the greatest work of him, translated to 20 languages.

Introduction

The novel Alamut is a story about Persian fortress in 11st century, which is named Alamut. The Alamut fortress was seized by leaders of Ismailis, Hasan ibn as-Sabah. He wants to gather a powerful army to attack Seljuk Empire which occupied Iran.

This story was inspiration for video game Assassin`s Creed.

The famous quote from this book: “Nothing is an absolute reality; all is permitted.”

Link to purchase: Alamut

Story

The story opens when young girl Halima was purchased by Hassan to become houri (a lovely virgin girl in Muslim Paradise). Then the story continues with the journey of a young man ibn Tahir, who is according to his family`s wish, sent to Alamut intending to join the fortress troops. After some time in Alamut he proved his skills and characteristics very well. Soon ibn Tahir became a member of fedai, the elite squad of the most brave and smart soldiers. In hard training fedai soldiers are expected to obey orders without demur and sacrifice their lives if it will be necessary. During their training they are also convinced that after death they shall go to heaven immediately if they will die in the line of duty.

Meanwhile, Halima joins to other houris in the garden which Hassan has been building. The young girls are educated in many various arts by Hassan and the houri who is confident to him, Miriam. Hassan managed to achieve high level of obedience by deceiving his soldiers; he gave them drugs (hashish) to hit them and then ordered to carry them into the gardens behind the fortress. They woke up in gardens which were set up as a scene of heaven, including houris. After they spent some time there, fedayin were secretly drugged again and carried back to the fortress. Therefore, they truly believe that Allah has given Hassan the power to send anybody to Heaven for some period. Some of fedai soldiers also fall in love with houris and this was an advantage which Hasan can use.

Soon there comes a time when Seljuk army besieges Alamut. A few soldiers are captured and then Hassan decided to demonstrate his power to them. For a pair of fedayin he orders to kill themselves, Yusuf jumped off a tower, Suleiman stabbed himself, both did this without any hesitation but with desire to go to heaven. After that Hassan order ibn Tahir to go and kill the grand vizier of Seljuk sultan Nizam-al-Mulk, because Hassan wants to take revenge about al-Mulk`s treason long years ago. Just before vizier dies, reveals the truth to ibn Tahir, the true about Hassan`s deception.

At the fortress Alamut things became complicated. Upon hearing of ibn Tahir success, Hassan tells Miriam that Ibn Tahir is probably dead as a result of discovery, Miriam commits suicide from her disillusionment. Halima also commits suicide cause she realized that she`ll never be with Suleiman whom she fell in love with, but he kills himself. Ibn Tahir decided to go to Alamut again to kill Hassan. At the fortress Hassan receives him and have long talk, he also reveals him his true motto: “Nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted”. After that, he lets ibn Tahir go to start a long journey around the world. Later another fedai kills the Seljuk Sultan and that`s how their empire collapsed. The fight for Seljuk throne begins. Hassan encloses himself into tower, determined to work until the end of his days. He transfers the power over the Ismaelits to the hands of his faithful dai, military and religious chefs.

My opinion

The story of Alamut is really powerful. In the world history we can find many parallels with this story, if we talk about concept or if we talk about leaders. The leaders for comparison could be Osama bin Laden, Hitler, Mussolini. The concept of leading masses of people with strongly believes in God, in their leader, or in some idea is something impressive and through the history we see that in many countries (totalitarian regimes). It is easy to manipulate masses of people if you offer them something in which they believe very strongly, almost fanatical.

There is another aspect which we shouldn’t forget and that is the religion. If we look on the world globally, religion always had pretty important role, many times connected with the country`s leaders. Religion should be something sacred and learn only really good things and generally it is so, but in history there were many cases when religion or actually a church was misleading or manipulate people.

Instead of some parallels with some powerful regimes or radical religions in the world, the Alamut story is a bit different. The main leader Hassan is represented with sympathy, as an old Islamic man who is also intellectual and open-minded. He doesn’t terrify his own people but he psychologically terrifies his enemies. To his own people he offers everything what they need, including education and knowledge. The fedai soldiers are not bunch of blood thirsty wild man but they are well-educated and well-trained soldiers. But of course they are manipulated for higher purpose, they must at every cost achieve their goals.

The book Alamut is timeless, it contains historical, philosophical, psychological and idea aspects. And it is really worth to read. I read it three times in different periods of my life, perhaps now is the time to read it again 🙂

Luka

24 Comments

  1. Hi Luka Great review very clear and thorough description which made me want to purchase.
    Just a thought that you could put a purchase link on your picture of the book as some people tend to click on it for further info which could direct them to your purchase area.

  2. Hey!
    Normally I’m not fan of historical writing but you got my attention for sure. I think books around fiction is quite interesting!
    Haven’t heard about this book before, but I think i’m going to give it a try if you have read it already three times 🙂 It has to be good then!
    Thanks for this review and happy New Year!

  3. I love this. I have been discussing with my teenage daughter how she can turn her passion into something. She loves books so much, started reading very well at the age of four. We have tons of books at home some we had to get rid of. I sometime think we seriously need our own library at home. She would love this book review I’m sure. I can’t wait to share with her. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nice to hear your positive opinion, it is good to read sure, but if you need your own library then it is not so easy 😉 Thank you for your comment!

  4. Thank you for your very detailed book review,

    This book appears to be very detailed with a lot of deep meaning and quite engaging. It is definitely one to add to my future reading list however is Alamut part of a series of books where the story has the potential to continue or is it one on its own.

  5. Never heard of the Alamut before but after I read your sypnosis sound like a good read! Is it an easy book to read? Do you need to know a bit of the culture beforehand? I like to think I am litterate enough but sometimes I must have snoozed off in class many times lol Now I gotta catch up. Will give it a try.

    • I appreciate that you like this book. It is pretty easy to read and I think that through the story you learn about their culture so it`s not hard to understand. Thank you for your comment!

  6. What a lovely book for sure.I like reading books which have moral lesson inside.Religious always try to manipulate people for their personal benefits and the result is negative.

    I didn’t read this book but I am attracted with your description and I will try to find it and it would be better if I found the link to purchase it I hope I can find it on amazon

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely story.

  7. Hey Luka!

    Great, very detailed review. I like novels based on history, so I will have this book in mind. Especially when the story takes place in the Middle East, a very turbulent and violent era of history. The review is so concise, so descriptive, that makes the reader want to buy the book.

    Is it available as an ebook as well?

    Marios

    • Hi Marios,

      I appreciate that you like my review. This book I really like and if you`ll read it I hope you will find it good too.I`m not sure about ebook if there is, check it out a little, maybe on some other website for eboks.

      Thank you for your opinion and a comment.

      Luka

  8. This is really interesting. I really love reading books and I have been searching for the choice of books I am going to read this year , thanks for bringing this to my notice because reading this article has triggered my interest to read it and I will make sure I make a purchase before this week runs out.

    • I appreciate you like my review and this book, if you`ll read it I hope you`ll enjoy. Thank you for your comment!

  9. This sounds interesting.  I love studying history, and you got me with the “Persian fortress in the 11th century” part.  🙂   I have not played Assassin’s Creed, but I think I’d enjoy the naval/pirate one due to my interest in that historical topic.

    The book sounds like a neat idea for historical fiction.  I have enjoyed a few historical fiction books myself, mainly based on the Age of Sail.

    I would clean up the grammar/spelling a little but it’s a nice way to introduce the book to an uninitiated reader like myself!

    Ben

    • Hi Ben,

      yes, this book is historical fiction and if you enjoy in reading such books you`ll love this one. Thank you for your comment!

      Luka

  10. What a great post, this take me back the days my grandfather used to share with us ancient stories, I really used to enjoy the stories, to my surprise I found myself concentrating keenly to this post I think I have to try purchase this book, I tend to believe that the author been born in those early days and had the knowledge to write a book, I believe the book must contain great ideas and stories that once you read you even want to read more, kindly share an affiliate link with the images attached to their price on them to make it easy to purchase.

    thank you.

    from Joy.

    • Hi Joy, thank you very much for taking time and read my article. If you`ll find time to read this book I hope you`ll like it, I actually have no doubt about it.

      Luka

  11. I an hear about this book for the first time and I must admit that I love it. I love reading books of this sort and I will surely get one if I have the means. 

    What transpired in the book is the true picture of what is happening in many countries today, especially the third world countries. Where people hide under the umbrella of religion to enrich themselves and enslave their gullible followers. 

    • Good to hear your opinion, I agree with you about things which are happening in some third world countries. Thank you for taking time and leave a comment!

  12. This book sounds like a really great read!

    I love historical novels, and history in general, and it is amazing how often history seems to be repeated, as in the comparisons which you give with more modern dictators. Sadly, it seems that we never learn from history!

    I am really intrigued by this book, and I think that I really must read it.

    Very many thanks for a great review.

    Chrissie 🙂

    • Hi Chrissie,

      I appreciate that you like my review and that now you have some idea what to read it. I completely agree with you that it`s sad how history many times repeats and sometimes it seems that we never learnt something from it. Thank you very much for taking time and leave a comment.

      Luka

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