Tariq Ali 1943-
Pakistani nonfiction writer, novelist, editor, playwright, historian, and journalist.
The following entry presents an overview of Ali's career through 2002.
Ali has been recognized as an important political and social commentator, establishing a reputation as a left-wing activist and journalist during the 1960s and 1970s. His work as an activist, journalist, editor, historian, playwright, and novelist has made him a familiar figure in British political and literary circles. In recent years, his writings have focused on the turbulent relationship between the countries of India and Pakistan and on British policies in the Middle East.
Ali was born on October 21, 1943, in Lahore, India, a region that is now part of Pakistan. In 1963 he received his B.A. from Punjab University, and then attended Oxford University in England. During his college years in England, Ali developed his talents as a writer and served as the president of the Oxford Union. He gained attention for his activities as a left-wing political activist, protesting British involvement in the Vietnam War as well as its policies toward the Soviet Union. After graduating from Oxford, Ali began working as a journalist, writing about a variety of political, social, and cultural issues while also serving as a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review. During the 1980s, he owned his own independent television production company, Bandung, which produced programs for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). He has been a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio and has also contributed articles and journalism to magazines and newspapers including The Guardian and the London Review of Books. Ali resides in England and continues to expound on current political conditions, such as the cultural conflicts in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions.
Ali has written a broad range of nonfiction, publishing first-hand accounts of life in the Soviet Union and in post-Soviet Russia, memoirs and studies of the student movement in the 1960s, explanatory texts on Stalinism and Trotskyism, and modern political histories of India and the Balkan crisis. 1968 and After: Inside the Revolution (1978) and Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties (1987) both delineate events of the 1960s and comment on the turbulent political and social climate of the era. In Revolution from Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going? (1988), Ali displays his investigative talents in an exploration of the socio-political conditions in the Soviet Union before and during the fall of communism. Turning his focus toward his homeland, Ali presented his personal analysis of the political relations between India and Pakistan in Can Pakistan Survive? (1983). Ali continued his examination of Indian culture with An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family (1985) which traces the history and influence of the Nehru-Gandhi family in Indian politics. As a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Ali published The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads, and Modernity (2002). The work explores the history of spiritual fundamentalism, arguing that the September 11 attacks were caused by a conflict between religious dogma and modern imperialism.
During the 1990s, Ali began to write and publish fiction that explores his interest in Muslim history and culture. Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1993) is his first novel in a planned quartet detailing confrontations between Islamic and Christian civilizations. The book chronicles events surrounding the Banu Hudayl—an aristocratic Muslim family—in late fourteenth-century Spain. The novel opens with the burning of all Muslim books by Ximenes de Cisneros, Queen Isabella's confessor, and relates the misfortunes of the Hudayl family, including the struggles of patriarch Umar Hudayl, his son Yazid, and the fall of Islam in Spain. Ali's 1999 novel, The Book of Saladin, the second novel in the quartet, is a fictitious memoir of the ruler Salah-al-Din, who wrested Jerusalem from Christian control in the twelfth century. The work seeks to dismiss the stereotype of Saladin as a ruthless and godless conqueror, employing a modern sensibility in its depiction of European Crusaders in a distinctly negative light. The third installment in the series, The Stone Woman (2000), focuses on the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century as viewed through the eyes of one family, and in particular, through the eyes of its patriarch, Iskander Pasha. Iskander suffers a stroke, which leaves him partially paralyzed. As his lengthy rehabilitation progresses, many of his friends and family members come to visit. Over the course of the novel, Iskander seeks answers to the reasons behind the decline of his empire and attempts to reconcile his past behavior with his present emotions. Much of the narrative also focuses on his daughter, Nilofer, her relationship with Iskander, and the feelings and opinions of their other relatives. Ali's novel Fear of Mirrors (1998) is written in an epistolary style, taking the form of a letter from Professor Vladimir Meyer to his estranged son, Karl, in an attempt to explain the family history. The novel moves back and forth in place and time, covering several generations of Vladimir's family as well as the development of the early communist movement. Ali intersperses fictional characters with well-known historical figures, creating a narrative that recounts the rise and fall of communism and the reunification of Germany.
All of Ali's dramatic works have been written in collaboration with Howard Brenton, focusing strongly on the genre of “Instant History” plays—plays which are composed quickly to address timely social and political issues. Written in just over five days, Ali's play Iranian Nights (1989) was intended to act as a metaphorical response to the Islamic furor surrounding the release of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. The plot utilizes several characters from Arabic folklore, including The Caliph and Scheherezade, in a tale about religious blasphemy and the nature of storytelling. Moscow Gold (1990) deals with the history of communism in the Soviet Union, following three women—Zoya, Katya, and Lena—as they experience and are affected by some of the major events in Soviet history, including the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the election of Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Ugly Rumours (1998) satirizes the British New Labour movement, taking its title from the band that British Prime Minister Tony Blair formed while attending Fettes College. The play centers around Blair as he struggles to deal with national politics while being haunted by the ghost of Margaret Thatcher who lives in the attic of No. 10 Downing Street. Ali and Brenton have also joined with Andy de la Tour to produce Collateral Damage (1999), which concerns the Serbian-Croatian conflict, and Snogging Ken (2000), a satire about a London mayoral election.
Ali's fiction and drama have met with mixed reviews, with critics generally favoring his plays over his novels. The plays Iranian Nights and Moscow Gold have been particularly singled out for their provocative political themes and nontraditional structures. His novels, in contrast, have received harsher criticism with some reviewers deeming them unimaginative and stylistically inferior. Several critics have faulted Ali for inadequate characterizations in his novels, while others have criticized his fiction citing such faults as overabundant metaphors, overuse of political jargon, and heavy-handed exposition. However, many commentators have applauded the pacing of Ali's storytelling as well as his humor and concern for authenticity in his historical novels, arguing that his later work appears more confident and mature. Critical consensus regarding Ali's political and historical studies has generally been favorable, with scholars noting his knowledgeable and intelligent treatment of Soviet and Middle Eastern politics. Nevertheless, some critics have found Ali's nonfiction to be needlessly polemic and marred by exaggeration, superficiality, and a lack of original information. In addition, several commentators have made similar observations regarding Ali's fiction, claiming his prose is predictable and overly driven by his own political beliefs. Julian Ferraro, for example, has stated that despite Ali's gripping subject matter, his writing often displays a “leaden touch.” In general, reviewers have praised the epic historical detail in many of Ali's novels, but have conversely panned the author's abilities with narrative and prose. In his review of Fear of Mirrors, Ferraro continued, “The dialogue is either turgid with political analysis or wooden to the point of bathos. … and the trite conclusion provided by the final scenes seriously undermines the bleak complexities of the rest of the book.” Overall, many commentators have agreed that Ali's unique background provides him with a valuable and intriguing perspective regarding world affairs.
The New Revolutionaries: A Handbook of the International Radical Left [editor] (nonfiction) 1969
Pakistan: Military Rule or People's Power? (nonfiction) 1970
The Coming British Revolution (nonfiction) 1972
1968 and After: Inside the Revolution (history) 1978
Trotsky for Beginners (nonfiction) 1980
Can Pakistan Survive? (nonfiction) 1983
The Stalinist Legacy: Its Impact on Twentieth-Century World Politics [editor] (nonfiction) 1984
What Is Stalinism? [editor] (nonfiction) 1984
An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family (history) 1985
Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties (history) 1987
Revolution from Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going? (nonfiction) 1988
Iranian Nights [with Howard Brenton] (play) 1989
Moscow Gold [with Howard Brenton] (play) 1990
Redemption (novel) 1990
*Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (novel) 1993
Fear of Mirrors (novel) 1998
1968: Marching in the Streets [with Susan Watkins] (nonfiction) 1998
Ugly Rumours [with Howard Brenton] (play) 1998
*The Book of...
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SOURCE: Addy, Premen. “State of Faith.” New Statesman 106, no. 2731 (22 July 1983): 24.
[In the following review, Addy credits Ali for his overview of the geopolitics of India in Can Pakistan Survive?, but faults him for not going beyond the “commonly held perceptions of the Left” in the book.]
The creation of Pakistan was for its founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a triumph of will and tactical acumen. For the Muslims of the subcontinent, whose cherished homeland this was to be, its consequences were fraught with tragedy. Jinnah had fondly hoped to build the new state in his own image: liberal, cosmopolitan, secular. But, as Tariq Ali observes [in Can Pakistan Survive?], it was a house built on sand. With Islam as its raison d'être, the country's ruling class consisted mainly of an unholy crew of Punjabi landlords and bureaucrats, a Punjabi-dominated military and a middle-class refugee element from Uttar Pradesh in India who had first voiced the idea of a promised land, only to lose out to the military-bureaucratic rump for whom any prospect of sharing office was an anathema.
The subject masses, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan, Baluchi, and the majority Bengalis separated from the rest by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, resisted all attempts, to chasten them into a common Islamic shape. Conflicting national, social, political and economic currents joined to fuel an explosive...
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SOURCE: Crawley, William. Review of Can Pakistan Survive?, by Tariq Ali. Asian Affairs 15, no. 1 (February 1984): 87-8.
[In the following review, Crawley outlines Ali's major thematic concerns in Can Pakistan Survive?]
Theorists of the left have been few in number in Pakistan and very limited in their influence. [In Can Pakistan Survive?] Tariq Ali writes from the position of one who though well known internationally is an outsider in his country's politics. He is equivocal about the validity and viability of Pakistan as a state. He dissects the political solutions and experiments which have been tried over the past thirty-five years, from the “military-bureaucratic” partnership culminating in President Ayub Khan's regime, through the “populism” of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to the “martial law with an Islamic face” practised by President Zia ul Haq. He pays particular attention to the Pakistani left, whose weakness and ineffectiveness he traces back to the errors of the Indian Communist Party both before and after independence in following the Moscow line too closely. By 1954 the communist party in both West and East Pakistan had been banned and its former members submerged in other parties. With the break-up of the two wings in 1971 the party reemerged in Bangladesh but not in the western half. Tariq Ali answers his own question “Can Pakistan Survive?” with a tentative and...
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SOURCE: Murray, Nicholas. Review of Who's Afraid of Margaret Thatcher?, by Tariq Ali. New Statesman 108, no. 2794 (5 October 1984): 33.
[In the following review, Murray provides a favorable assessment of Ali's introduction to Who's Afraid of Margaret Thatcher?]
This short book [Who's Afraid of Margaret Thatcher?] consists of two long conversations which took place at County Hall in June 1983 and April 1984 between the two red horned and tailed demons whom Steve Bell delineates on the cover. It is an essential sequel to the unpolitical Citizen Ken and a must for all Livingstone-fanciers.
Tariq Ali's trenchant introduction aims its fairground rifle at a row of targets including the ‘pink professors’ (Crick and Hobsbawm), the ‘fashion conscious editors of Marxism Today’ who have done for radical chic what the Princess of Wales has done for parturition, the ‘charade’ of the block vote and (for the provenance of these talks is the Olympian New Left Review) the massed vices of Labourism.
The interview format is peculiarly well suited to the episodic and anecdotal temper of Ken Livingstone's political intelligence. He is explicit about his lack of any theoretical apparatus and at the end of his introduction Uncle Tariq leans over and administers a gentle slap on the wrist to young Ken for this (‘Yet, I'm afraid, he will...
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SOURCE: Ahmed, Akbar S. Review of Can Pakistan Survive?, by Tariq Ali. Journal of Asian Studies 44, no. 1 (November 1984): 239-41.
[In the following review, Ahmed criticizes Can Pakistan Survive?, calling the work simplistic, polemical, and “marred in general by non sequiturs and by exaggeration.”]
Tariq Ali, the professional polemical student leader long resident in England, has written a polemical book [Can Pakistan Survive?]. The title, subtitle, and photograph on the jacket (Pakistan in flames) may be termed “sensational.” The question in the title has been asked since 1947; the subtitle is premature.
Tariq's view of South Asian political history is simplistic. Pakistan was a mistake: “Pakistan was an irrationality, a product of imperialist penetration of the subcontinent—its interior was diseased from birth—an experiment doomed to failure” (p. 145). It is a position held by most Indian leaders. Tariq's villains are black and his heroes are white. In the former category he includes the judiciary, the army, the civil service, and the journalists of Pakistan. In the latter category are the small group of Pakistani leftists. No one can deny that Pakistan has numerous problems. It has hostile neighbors; it has had serious ethnic divisions (in Bengal in 1971 and in Sind in 1984); there is tension between fundamentalists and other Muslims; the problem...
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SOURCE: Masani, Zareer. “Tensions.” New Statesman 109, no. 2815 (1 March 1985): 29-30.
[In the following excerpt, Masani notes the lack of new research and serious analysis in An Indian Dynasty.]
The lives of India's modern Caesars have already been the subject of copious biography; and Tariq Ali relies almost wholly on the work of his predecessors. But was there any point in a tedious repetition of the story if there was nothing new to add? There was certainly room for a study of the making of the dynasty and of the political culture that legitimised it. But that would have required new research and some serious analysis, neither of which appear in this hastily improvised dog's breakfast [An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family].
Tariq Ali implies that the dynasty owes its fortunes to founding-father Jawaharlal, whose achievements take up more than half the book. But his long-winded and discursive account of the nationalist movement misses out the most interesting part of the story—how the Congress Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost (as Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were sometimes affectionately known) assured the younger Nehru's political succession. Tariq Ali does not seem to know that when Jawaharlal took over as Congress President in 1929, his father, the outgoing president, had been pulling strings for him behind the scenes. He...
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SOURCE: Pal, Pratapaditya. “An Indian Dynasty.” Los Angeles Times Book Review (19 May 1985): 7.
[In the following review, Pal contends that although An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family “was written and produced in less than six months, it is well documented, generally accurate and very readable.”]
Thirty years ago, the non-aligned movement was born in an obscure town called Bandung in Indonesia. The chief architects of that conference were four remarkable men of this century: Tito of Yugoslavia, Chou en Lai of China, Nasser of Egypt and Nehru of India. Tito and Chou were rulers of communist governments; Nasser had come to power through military rather than democratic means; only Nehru was the freely elected leader of what was then—and still is—the largest democracy in the world. All four men died some time ago, and neither in the communist countries nor in partially democratic Egypt has any of the descendants of Tito, Chou or Nasser staked a claim to their country's political leadership as their birth-right. Ironically, only in the world's largest “democracy” has there been a perpetuation of dynastic rule for 34 years of its 37-year existence.
Tariq Ali's book [An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family] narrates the strange saga of perhaps the most extraordinary dynasty of modern times. Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was the...
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SOURCE: Naipaul, Shiva. “Family Affair.” New Republic 192, no. 21 (27 May 1985): 26-30.
[In the following review, Naipaul discusses Ali's perception of and attitude toward twentieth-century Indian politics in An Indian Dynasty.]
No one interested in the 20th-century history of the Indian subcontinent can contemplate its dramas without the accompanying sensations of disquiet and distaste—even, on occasion, of outright revulsion. The plot, beginning with the struggles of the nationalist movement, is a complex and devious one, a spider's web of often incompatible ideals (Gandhi and Nehru may have been guru and disciple, but they also represented quite different images of Indian destiny), of hostile interests and confusions of motive. Toward the end, which we might say for the sake of convenience comes with the coronation of Rajiv Gandhi, the ideals have disappeared altogether. All that survives are the interests, which have become more naked, and the emotions to which they give rise, which have become more crude. How did it happen that the Gandhi-Nehru legacy decayed into the shabbiest idolatry of family? How was it that India—a country, despite all its poverty and squalor, with a substantial industrial base, powerful armed forces, a sophisticated civil service, a well-educated middle class—how was it that India maneuvered itself into the voodoo politics of Mama and Baby Docs?
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SOURCE: Fountain, Nigel. “Summer's Here and the Time Is Right.” New Statesman 114, no. 2954 (6 November 1987): 28-9.
[In the following review, Fountain describes Ali as an “informative, funny, and illuminating writer,” lauding his prose in Street Fighting Years.]
Is it the right title? Mick Jagger joined the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign marchers as they moved on Grosvenor Square in March 1968 and, hey presto, two months later, out popped ‘Street Fighting Man’ and thus, I suppose, the cue for the title of Tariq Ali's autobiography [Street Fighting Years]. Yet brooding on his entertaining reminiscences of those times my mind slipped to a 1964 waxing by the West Coast's Beach Boys, who reported that they were getting tired of going down the same old strip and were going to find a new place where the kids were hip. There isn't really very much fighting in Street Fighting Years, but boy, Ali can—and does—say he Got Around.
Indeed, the only restriction on his movement seems to have been the attention of the then Home Secretary, James Callaghan. The risk of losing his residency in Britain deterred the author from joining the action on the Paris barricades in May 1968. ‘To have missed Paris that spring,’ he writes, ‘was unforgiveable.’
Well, up to a point; Lenin missed February 1917 so had the whole show rerun with a new script in...
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SOURCE: Irwin, Robert. “The Poet and the Infidel.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4491 (28 April 1989): 456.
[In the following review, Irwin compliments Iranian Nights, calling the play humorous and thought-provoking.]
“‘Why it's Ali Baba!’ Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. ‘It's dear old Ali Baba … And the Sultan's Groom turned upside-down by the Genii; there he is upon his head! Serve him right. I'm glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess!’” [In Iranian Nights] Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton, depressed and challenged by book-burnings, clenched-fisted mobs, death threats, fire-bombings and holy gangsterism, have found both solace and inspiration in the same source which the repenting Scrooge turned to, The Arabian Nights. The curtain opens on a stage set drawn from Dulac. The Caliph, a gaudily got-up Rumpelstiltskin played by Nabil Shaban, is waiting for the next story from Scheherezade (Fiona Victory), but her story-telling role is often usurped by Omar Khayyam (Paul Bhattacharjee). Together, Omar and the Caliph act out the story of a poet from an infidel isle who, sentenced to death for blasphemy, travels east to meet his judge, the Imam, in an attempt to save his life by talking (the Scheherezade tactic). He talks a lot, but the tactic does not work for him. Then Scheherezade relates an authentic story from the Nights, that of...
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SOURCE: Kagarlitsky, Boris. “The Truth about Perestroika.” Nation 248, no. 22 (5 June 1989): 765-67.
[In the following review, Kagarlitsky compares Ali's Revolution from Above to Anthony Barnett's Soviet Freedom.]
The Soviet Union is too important to be left to Sovietologists. This precept is central to Revolution from Above, by Tariq Ali, but it could just as easily be applied to Soviet Freedom, by Anthony Barnett, which was published in London six months earlier. The two books almost beg for comparison. Both authors are radicals; neither had studied Soviet society before. Tariq Ali had edited a very interesting collection of materials on Stalinism, but as a British socialist he was interested in the overall theoretical and international aspects of the problem. Meanwhile, in these books both Ali and Barnett are mainly concerned with nothing less than the everyday political life of my country.
Who in the West could have imagined something like this five or six years ago? When many authors of books about the Soviet Union touched on politics, they set about describing the functioning of various official agencies or providing biographies of Politburo members. The study of politics came down to Kremlinology. Few people would have applied the phrase “political struggle” to the Soviet Union. The Western reader had an image of a hopelessly conservative and...
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SOURCE: Singer, Daniel. “The Intelligentsia and Soviet Change.” Monthly Review 41, no. 5 (October 1989): 61-4.
[In the following excerpt, Singer applauds the thought-provoking nature of Ali's Revolution from Above.]
Tariq Ali is no Sovietologist. Born in Pakistan, educated at Oxford, he was one of the leaders of the protest movement in Britain in the 1960s and has been a prominent figure of the New Left ever since. Because he is essentially an activist and not a Kremlinologist, the author conveys the feeling that history is here in the making, that the Soviet Union is at the very beginning of a period of monumental change. A stranger, a visitor, he manages to pass on to the reader the excitement of a country where serious periodicals sell like hot cakes, where books, films, plays are political events, where people simultaneously discover their past and the art of political debate.
The purpose of the book [Revolution from Above] is polemical, and it is aimed at the western left. The author proclaims himself the champion of this “revolution from above.” Naturally he too would have preferred to see a mass movement from below. “That would have been very nice, but it didn't happen that way,” he remarks rather rhetorically, attacking left-wing skeptics for their over-critical attitude toward the Gorbachev experiment. While agreeing that one should never quarrel with history...
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SOURCE: Rumens, Carol. “The Perestroika Pageant.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4566 (5 October 1990): 1069.
[In the following review, Rumens calls Moscow Gold “gripping,” and lauds the play for its bold, contrasting scenes and innovative stage construction.]
Three hours' worth of perestroika for beginners ought to be boring. While alive to the broader issues at stake in Moscow, Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton add little to the arguments already sketched for us elsewhere in the media and, some neat one-liners notwithstanding, their language is often as clichéd. Yet Moscow Gold is gripping. Dramatically as well as visually it evokes the bold, ad hoc style of Constructivism, its sharply contrasted scenes as immediate as a series of revolutionary posters brought to life. Borrowing from many genres, Ali and Brenton vindicate the risk-taking that is their avowed dramatic policy—and also part of the real-life drama of perestroika. Unlike Gorbachev's reconstruction, though, this one is a triumph of collaboration.
Stefanos Lazaridis's set is dominated by the Politburo's enormous, circular, scarlet table-cum-dais, which springs trap-doors to allow the oppressed to burst forth at suitable moments—an effective use of symbolism, enhanced by the large downward-pointing finger of Stalin's semi-visible statue. Meyerhold is the presiding genius, and...
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SOURCE: Widgery, David. “Berty Khan's Revenge.” New Statesman and Society 3, no. 122 (12 October 1990): 42-3.
[In the following review, Widgery offers a mixed assessment of Redemption, contending that too much of the novel “smacks of an adolescent desire to violate the orthodoxies the author once staunchly propounded.”]
Comic novels about the left, like Ethyl Mannin's Comrade, O Comrade, about the 1945 split in the Anarchist Federation of Britain, have a habit of not being very funny. The wittiest accounts are, like Claude Cockburn's true. Tariq Ali's qualifications as the Evelyn Waugh of Trotskyism are debatable, though his publisher, whose idiosyncratic list's only theme is desperation for a bestseller, feels that some sort of intellectual bodice-ripper might prove profitable consolation for us distressed '68ers to curl up with.
Ali used to issue severe tomes with relentlessly red and black typography and titles like The Stalinist Legacy. Redemption is served up with plenty of serifs, an Orozco detail and the inscription “a novel”, just in case you thought it was a watering can. And T Ali's vanguard role in the leadership of the Fourth International is suppressed in the blurb, where he is described as “a writer and film-maker”. But the only people this romp will please are the readers of the Daily Mail (glad that another escapee from...
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SOURCE: Kincaid, Paul. “Iron Curtain Call.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4571 (9 November 1990): 1214.
[In the following review, Kincaid derides Ali's prose in Redemption, noting several weaknesses in the plot and stating that the book “is a comedy, but humour is less in evidence than silly portentousness.”]
Far from the promised redemption, this crude first novel [Redemption] smacks of revenge. The various factions of Trotskyism, for which Tariq Ali was such a vocal and visible spokesman during the 1960s, are here mercilessly ridiculed as invariably brutish, ignorant and sexually perverse. Most of the factions appear to consist of no more than a handful of louts whose sole purpose in life is to do down rival factions and produce a newspaper detailing the tedious utterances of their leader. Those utterances, furthermore, are couched only in empty jargon; so that a sexual rejection is the cue for “vigorous polemic”, and one character is described thus: “the rapist side of the Cuckoo was amply fulfilled in the politico-organizational sphere”. Some of this, undoubtedly, is intended as satire; unfortunately the idiom is used so unvaryingly throughout the narrative that it seems Ali is unable to distance himself from the vocabulary, beliefs and attitudes he is supposedly parodying.
Redemption is a comedy, but humour is less in evidence than silly...
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SOURCE: Evans, Jr., Alfred. “Gorbachev's Unfinished Revolution.” Problems of Communication 40, nos. 1-2 (January-April 1991): 133-43.
[In the following excerpt, Evans praises certain portions of Revolution from Above, but faults others, asserting that the book ignores many complexities of the Soviet political arena.]
[Revolution from Above,] by Tariq Ali is similar to the on-the-scene reporting of well-informed political journalists in Western and Asian democracies. A series of topical essays on Soviet politics in 1987 and 1988, the book is based largely on extensive interviews with well-placed Soviet sources. Ali expresses the enthusiasm of one who is caught up in the excitement of increasing political openness and intellectual honesty in the USSR under Gorbachev, and sees in perestroyka and glasnost the prospect for the revitalization of the socialist idea.
Ali describes political processes in the USSR as characterized by increasingly open debates among those defending contending positions, and by ever more open appeals by political leaders for support from a wide range of groups in the population. Also, although he is aware of each leader's desire to maximize his power, he attributes leaders' policy positions primarily to their objectives for Soviet society and their affinity for the interests both of groups of citizens and of officials in...
(The entire section is 427 words.)
SOURCE: Hashmi, Alamgir. Review of Redemption, by Tariq Ali. World Literature Today 66, no. 1 (winter 1992): 210-11.
[In the following review, Hashmi outlines the major themes of Redemption.]
Tariq Ali comes to fiction from a respectable writing career in politics, history, biography, and, most recently, stage drama with a sharp focus on the contemporary world. On Christmas Eve 1989, in Paris, [in Redemption,] as the seventy-year-old Trotskyist patriarch Ezra Einstein watches on TV a Ceauşescu executioner make the sign of the cross, he seems even to forget the bliss of his late married life, he whose “fingers had rested more often on the keys and body of his antique writing aid [his fifty-five-year-old typewriter] than on the more intimate sections of the female anatomy.” He issues a letter forthwith to convene a congress to discuss the world situation following the collapse of the East European regimes and the changes in the Soviet Union. As the oppressed classes have generally failed to be responsive to their program, the brigade considers changing its methods. Ezra himself proposes “that we go into these religions and fight to establish a connection between Heaven and Earth,” because “one of the weaknesses of Marxism and all other isms descended from it has been a lack of understanding of ethics, morality, and, dare I say it, spirituality.”
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SOURCE: Irwin, Robert. Review of Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, by Tariq Ali. Times Literary Supplement, no. 4648 (1 May 1992): 20.
[In the following review, Irwin discusses Ali's utilization of exposition and metaphors, faulting what he deems to be Ali's lack of imagination in Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree.]
“We are living in the most difficult period of our history. We have not had such serious problems since Tarik and Musa first occupied these lands. And you know how long ago that was, do you not?”
Yazid nodded. “In our first century and their eighth.”
Tariq Ali's second novel [Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree], a work of historical fiction, is about the misfortunes of a family of Moors living in the province of Granada in 1500, eight years after the region had been conquered by the Spanish Catholic armies of Ferdinand and Isabella. It is the sort of historical novel in which people like to talk history (“We destroyed two great empires. Everything fell into our lap. We kept the Arab lands and Persia and parts of Byzantium. Elsewhere it was difficult, wasn't it? Look at us. We have been in al-Andalus for seven hundred years …”) and debate such matters as women's rights, the problems of minority communities, the evils of book burning, and the origins of Western...
(The entire section is 659 words.)
SOURCE: Ahmed, Akbar. “The Moors Murdered.” New Statesman and Society 5, no. 203 (22 May 1992): 39-40.
[In the following review, Ahmed provides an overview of Ali's life and career, tracing his development as an author through Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree.]
A review of Tariq Ali's new novel [Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree] requires a review of the author. In the 1960s, when he emerged as a student star in Oxford, I admired him, in common with most Pakistani undergraduates in England then, for his rebellious energy and boldness. He appeared to capture the mood of his generation.
When he became President of the Oxford Union, the press was predicting that he would become prime minister of Pakistan. Although another Union president, Benazir Bhutto, did assume that office, Tariq never really had a chance. In Pakistani politics it matters who you are, and Benazir's father had been prime minister.
In one important sense, Tariq's career has been downhill ever since. Too much was expected of him, and because of that his life remains a disappointment. He compensated by remaining in the public eye through his writing and media appearances. The range of his interests was boundless: from the Nehru dynasty to Genghis Khan to a bawdy satirical novel, Redemption. But his ideas tended to be inflexible. Even the name he chose for his television company, Bandung,...
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SOURCE: Chaudhuri, Amit. “Here Is a Little Family.” London Review of Books 14, no. 13 (9 July 1992): 18-19.
[In the following excerpt, Chaudhuri maintains that Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree is “a strangely refreshing work in that it gives us a warm and indulgent picture of a certain section of Islamic life.”]
Tariq Ali's novel [Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree] is about a noble family of great renown in Moorish Spain. The lives and culture of this family and its retainers are on the edge of extinction: either they must convert from Islam to Christianity, or die at the hands of the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella. The emotions, conflicts and shifts in this novel are no more complex and layered than those to be found in the exhilarating lyrics of an Arab song about love or heroism, but it is a strangely refreshing work in that it gives us a warm and indulgent picture of a certain section of Islamic life. Though it is set in Medieval times, it serves as a corrective to some of our images of the contemporary Muslim world, and reminds us, for instance, that its culture is made up not only of men with machine-guns in their hands and chequered handkerchiefs on their heads, but of sprawling, extended families, meeting-places, kitchens with their own aroma and cuisine, weddings, and a large number of personable and clear-headed women. On the brink of imminent destruction, courtships...
(The entire section is 424 words.)
SOURCE: Allen, Douglas. Review of Revolution from Above, by Tariq Ali. Southern Humanities Review 29 (fall 1992): 361-63.
[In the following review, Allen examines the central issues discussed in Revolution from Above.]
Since he came to Oxford University from Pakistan and became one of the radical leaders of the 1960s, Tariq Ali has been a prominent figure on the British Left. His books include Can Pakistan Survive?, An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family, and Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties. His orientation can best be described as that of an independent, democratic, anti-Stalinist Marxist/socialist: very familiar with the classical socialist writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, and others and strongly influenced by the writings of Deutscher, Trotsky, and Mandel (i.e., a strong, but not uncritical, Trotskyist influence).
The subtitle of the book [Revolution from Above] aptly describes its central question: Where is the Soviet Union going? During the post-Stalinist period of the mid-fifties, Khrushchev opened many gates for political and cultural revelations and changes, but he had to retreat under pressure from the bureaucracy and was finally deposed. The conservative Brezhnev period was marked by bureaucratic retrenchment, “mafiocracy” and corruption, and finally stagnation. Mikhail Gorbachev became...
(The entire section is 1299 words.)
SOURCE: Caulfield, Carl. “Moscow Gold and Reassessing History.” Modern Drama 36, no. 4 (December 1993): 490-98.
[In the following essay, Caulfied analyzes the role of history in Moscow Gold.]
The Revolution has shifted the theatre of our critical operations. We must review our tactics.1
Moscow Gold is Howard Brenton and Tariq Ali's second theatrical collaboration, after their satirical, metaphorical response in 1989 to the Rushdie affair in Iranian Nights. Moscow Gold dramatizes what its authors see as a need for a reassessment of Soviet history and Communist ideologies, but the play can also be seen as revealing a state of crisis in Howard Brenton's overview of world history and his earlier views on historical progression. Prior to the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, Brenton believed that Western Europe was on the verge of a political renaissance, an inevitable historical movement towards a more “communistic” society. As he stated in 1986: “It began with the Paris Commune in 1871. The Russian Revolution, whether you regard it with hope, hope betrayed, or with horror, has changed world history forever.”2 The “second Renaissance” Brenton describes is a transmutation from mercantile capitalism to a “communistic world view.”3 This “huge conviction” of Brenton's...
(The entire section is 3691 words.)
SOURCE: Hitchens, Christopher. “Acts of Violence in Grosvenor Square.” London Review of Books 20, no. 11 (4 June 1998): 14-15.
[In the following excerpt, Hitchens contends that Ali provides a vivid portrayal of the 1960s world climate in 1968: Marching in the Streets.]
I was just beginning to write about 1968 when I learned of the death in New Orleans of Ron Ridenhour, the GI who exposed the massacre at My Lai. He was only 52, which means that he was in his early twenties when, as a helicopter gunner in the area, he learned of the murder of nearly 660 Vietnamese civilians. This was not some panicky ‘collateral damage’ firefight: the men of Charlie Company took a long time to dishonour and dismember the women, round up and despatch the children and make the rest of the villagers lie down in ditches while they walked up and down shooting them. Not one of the allegedly ‘searing’ films about the war—not Apocalypse Now, not Full Metal Jacket or Platoon—has dared to show anything remotely like the truth of this and many other similar episodes, more evocative of Poland or the Ukraine in 1941. And the thing of it was, as Ron pointed out, that it was ‘an act of policy, not an individual aberration. Above My Lai that day were helicopters filled with the entire command staff of the brigade, division and task force.’
A few weeks ago, at the Vietnam Veterans...
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SOURCE: Ferraro, Julian. Review of Fear of Mirrors, by Tariq Ali. Times Literary Supplement, no. 4970 (3 July 1998): 20.
[In the following review, Ferraro praises Fear of Mirrors for its examination of characters who serve political ideals, but faults the novel for its trite conclusion and “wooden” dialogue.]
Fear of Mirrors, Tariq Ali's third work of fiction, is a political novel. The book's narrative spans the twentieth century, from the last years of the Austrian Empire to the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the reunification of Germany. Its central character, Professor Vladimir Meyer, is an East German Communist, a former dissident, who has been dismissed from his university post by the “Westies”. Politically and emotionally estranged from his son, Karl, and abandoned by his wife, Helge, he tries to make sense of his own history and that of his country. The novel unfolds in a series of accounts, from various perspectives, of the present and the past, which are framed by the device of Vlady's attempt at a family history for his son. Moving fluidly between significant historical moments, this tells the interconnected stories of Vlady, of his mother, Gertrude, and his supposed father, Ludwik, a Soviet master-spy and the recruiter of Kim Philby. Vlady's account has a clear (and worthwhile) political agenda: “What I want … is to rescue the people in this story...
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SOURCE: Kellaway, Kate. “Playing at Politics.” New Statesman 27, no. 4411 (13 November 1998): 36.
[In the following review, Kellaway discusses the tone and pacing of Ugly Rumours.]
There is a madwoman in the cellar of No 10 Downing Street. Her name is Margaret Thatcher. Her triple-stringed pearls are intact but her twin-set suit, though tightly buttoned, is adrift with cobwebs. She needs dusting but does not know it. She is, in Sylvia Syms' entertaining portrayal of her, a merry but slightly sinister ghost. She still sees herself as the most influential person in the country. She carries about her person a “Thatcher extractor”, a sort of portable Hoover designed to suck socialism out of the body. It seems to work on Tony Blair—and she is pleased with him.
Howard Brenton and Tariq Ali have done wisely to include Thatcher in their satire of new Labour, Ugly Rumours. For Blair does not lend himself to biting comedy quite as naturally as Thatcher has always done. The problem is that in life Blair resembles a moderately talented actor who has been badly directed (think of his awful over-emphatic rendition of Corinthians 14 at Diana's funeral; he made it sound as though he were trying to sell love as party policy).
In this production, Blair is played by a moderately talented actor (Neil Mullarkey) but at least he has been well directed by Christopher Morahan...
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SOURCE: Williams, Ranti. “The Heart of a Warrior.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 4992 (4 December 1998): 23.
[In the following review, Williams asserts that The Book of Saladin vividly depicts the sweep of history, but fails to develop its characters adequately.]
Saladin is one of the few figures to have emerged from the bloody, brutal history of the Crusades with any measure of dignity. Legend and history concur in presenting the Kurdish warrior who led the Muslim reconquest of Jerusalem in 1198 as a man whose integrity and compassion more than matched his sense of religious destiny and military skills. [In The Book of Saladin,] Tariq Ali's fictional account of Saladin does not attempt to sully history's portrait of this liberal Muslim hero. Instead, it attempts to add to the conventional view of this humane, generous leader a sense of indecision and loneliness by presenting the contradictions at the heart of the great man.
The historical Saladin was the first Muslim leader to see the recapture of Jerusalem as part of a greater jihad. Ali's Saladin, despite an eventual sense of religious destiny, has a history of youthful scepticism—much is made of his failure to visit Mecca, which is seen as a conscious youthful decision, then a constant adult regret. Similarly, despite the historical Saladin's reputation for clever military strategy, Ali's version is strangely...
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SOURCE: King, Bruce. Review of Fear of Mirrors, by Tariq Ali. World Literature Today 73, no. 1 (winter 1999): 219.
[In the following review, King offers a negative assessment of Fear of Mirrors, calling the work confusing, poorly written, and clichéd.]
Fear of Mirrors belongs to a literary subgenre that has not been fashionable during recent decades. Like many political novels, it attempts a grand story and has an epic feel resulting from the characters' involvement in major historical events. Tariq Ali tells of the rise and fall of communism as experienced by some Central European Jews who, rebelling against their enclosed society and against violent persecutions, were early communists. The novel moves back and forth between characters and places and times as several generations of family, friends, and lovers devote themselves to the revolution, become disillusioned, are betrayed and exterminated, or want to learn about, explain, or justify the past.
The story takes place against such events as Lenin's distrust of Stalin, Stalin's gaining control of the Communist Party, the failure of the revolution in Germany, the shift in the party line from global revolution to defense of the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, the many purges, the way those who knew of Stalin's crimes hid them either from fear or because of the need first to defeat fascism, the fate of reform...
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SOURCE: Jakeman, Jane. “Novel of the Week.” New Statesman 128, no. 4418 (8 January 1999): 55.
[In the following review, Jakeman maintains that The Book of Saladin is a fulfilling read, utilizing “sparse prose” filled with exotic settings in order to create a realistic portrait of the sultan.]
[The Book of Saladin] is a work of fiction based on a historical character who has attained quasi-mythical status in both east and west. To the Muslim world, he is a rallying cry, an almost superhuman conqueror, an utterly virtuous religious figure as the commander of a holy war, leading the charge onward at sword point as the famous equestrian statue at Damascus. To the Christian world, he has long been the redeeming light in a world perceived generally as obscure and cruel: the rare courtly opponent surrounded by oriental darkness and wiles.
It was this western version of the Saladin legend that enabled the 19th century to create the concept of a superior warrior breed, wielders of damascened weapons as described in Lane-Poole's Art of the Saracens. Saracens, not Muslims or Arabs or Kurds. By splitting off certain aspects of Islamic history, it was possible for the west to appreciate a refined aristocratic culture unconnected with the inconvenient real peoples in the Muslim world. The Saladin myth was a powerful one that still informed Eden's aristocratic viewpoint in...
(The entire section is 822 words.)
SOURCE: Raine, Nina. “Three Men and a Manifesto.” New Statesman 129, no. 4483 (24 April 2000): 43-4.
[In the following review, Raine discusses the collaboration between Ali, Howard Brenton, and Andy de la Tour and the resulting play Snogging Ken.]
Somewhere in Highgate, north London, three men are sitting round a kitchen table writing a play about the London mayoral election. One of them frets. One of them soothes. And one of them complains about ugly sentences. They are Andy de la Tour, Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton respectively.
I sit on the sofa, next to a pink book entitled Socialism and Democracy, an Arsenal scarf and a cap which claims that “Skateboarding is not a Crime”. We are in Ali's freezing cold kitchen. He doesn't switch on the central heating. There is silence, broken only by the soft plink of the laptop in front of de la Tour. Ali watches him. Suddenly he speaks.
“Andy—you're not happy.”
“No—it's just that, well, I've lost the mouse again.”
Brenton gets up to investigate. He looks like a great dour farmer, but when his mouth opens, a surprising finicky chirrup comes out.
“If you had a nipple, this wouldn't happen, you know. I have a nipple. I love them.”
They have almost finished Snogging Ken. It has taken them one week. By the time this piece is...
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SOURCE: Mahawatte, Royce. “At the Summer Palace.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5083 (1 September 2000): 11.
[In the following review, Mahawatte contends that although The Stone Woman is “rich, erudite and admirable,” it tries to achieve too much and fails on a number of levels.]
The Stone Woman, the third instalment in Tariq Ali's Islamic Quartet, owes a great deal to the nineteenth-century tradition of humanistic drama within historical debate. Although the novel is rich, erudite and admirable, it is overambitious in its aims and uneven in its achievements. Set near Istanbul at the end of the nineteenth century, the novel centres on the conflicts experienced by a noble Ottoman family, and in particular the stroke-afflicted patriarch, Iskander Pasha. Family members, young and old, arrive at the seaside palace to see the paralysed pasha, and they reflect on the past and prepare to face a new future. The slowly recuperating pasha seeks reasons for the demise of his empire and his heritage, and finds himself engaged in conversations with his family and with a visiting German baron. The pasha is unable to reconcile his feelings and past behaviour towards his modern children, especially his strong-willed daughter, Nilofer. The younger generation are caught between the dark world of decaying aristocrats and the dawning future ahead, yet they lament the loss of a time when their lives...
(The entire section is 705 words.)
SOURCE: Hopkin, James. “Turkish Delight.” New Statesman 13, no. 662 (11 September 2000): 56.
[In the following review, Hopkin argues that The Stone Woman is a captivating and complex novel.]
The third novel in a planned quarter charting the tensions between Islam and Christianity, Tariq Ali's The Stone Woman sets up the Pasha family from Istanbul as a microcosm of the Ottoman empire at the end of the 19th century. Drawing on a rich tradition of mythmaking and storytelling, Ali creates an enchanting, sometimes harrowing, fable of a family whose stability and harmony, like the empire to which they belong, is largely predicated on undisclosed information and recycled myths.
Ali teases out these secrets with the grace and guile of a natural storyteller. A weathered sculpture of a pagan goddess—“the repository of all our hidden pain”—becomes the focal point for those concealing difficult truths. Each character approaches her and confesses a story (of forbidden love, real fathers, desires beyond the codes of Islam). Each riveting disclosure has its own voice, but they are all a little wise, sad and humane.
When not in confessional mode, the novel is narrated by Nilofer, returning from an exile imposed on her when she married a Greek. Determined to prevent the household from dictating the course of her life, Nilofer meets Selim, a young barber, and...
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SOURCE: Huggler, Justin. “I Prefer to Be an Ottoman.” London Review of Books 22, no. 23 (30 November 2000): 35.
[In the following review, Huggler explores the major thematic concerns of The Stone Woman.]
No country in the Islamic world has embraced the West as eagerly as Turkey has, which makes it an intriguing setting for the third novel in Tariq Ali's Islamic Quartet: a series of snapshots of the great historic collisions between the two cultures, taken from the Eastern point of view, The Stone Woman is set as the 19th century draws to a close. With the Ottoman Empire in terminal decline, Ali sends the members of a wealthy and aristocratic Turkish family hurrying to the bedside of the patriarch, Iskander Pasha, who has had a stroke. As he slowly recovers, the family, their friends and servants debate whether their country, ‘the sick man of Europe’, can get better too.
At first sight it seems that Ali has set out to write an Eastern Magic Mountain, if only in the sense that his characters, withdrawn from the world, discuss the historic events taking place around them. As the narrator, Nilofer, Iskander Pasha's daughter, puts it: ‘Outside in the world a great deal was going on Rebellions were being plotted. Resistance was being prepared. Sultans and Emperors were becoming uneasy. History was being made. Here, in the beautiful fragrant gardens … all that seemed...
(The entire section is 1789 words.)
SOURCE: King, Bruce. Review of The Book of Saladin, by Tariq Ali. World Literature Today 74, no. 1 (winter 2000): 245.
[In the following review, King surveys the strengths and weaknesses of The Book of Saladin.]
Tariq Ali is not only a journalist and filmmaker; he is also an old-fashioned novelist who likes to write large books on important issues and big themes. The Book of Saladin is the second novel in an intended quartet treating the confrontation between Islam and Christianity. The first novel, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, concerned the fall of Islam in Spain. The Book of Saladin is the story of the rise of Sultan Yusuf Salah al-Din's family and how Salah al-Din united the twelfth-century Islamic world for the liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusaders. The conquest and reconquest of Jerusalem has been the subject of many epics, although seldom seen through Islamic eyes.
This is very much a postcolonial book, one in which the Europeans not only invade a foreign land but are also barbarians with filthy habits, defilers of holy places, liars, and killers of women and children and especially of Jews. This is a novel shaped by modern sensibilities as well as facts. It is intended as an allegory for the next Islamic liberation of Jerusalem; Ali's introductory “Explanatory Note” alludes to its application to the present. The implications are that Arab...
(The entire section is 586 words.)
SOURCE: King, Bruce. Review of The Stone Woman, by Tariq Ali. World Literature Today 75, no. 1 (winter 2001): 111.
[In the following review, King pans The Stone Woman, contending that Ali is not a “natural novelist” and that he lacks the ability to realistically tell a story.]
The Stone Woman is the third installment in Tariq Ali's “Islamic Quartet.” Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1999) concerned the collapse of Muslim Spain with the fall of Granada; The Book of Saladin (1998; see WLT 74:1, p. 245) told of the events leading to the reconquest of Jerusalem from the Crusaders; this new novel is a family saga set at a country home outside Istanbul at the end of the nineteenth century. The family has served the Sultan for centuries but now is critical of the clergy and awaits the end of the Empire and the birth of a new society that can compete with Europe. Some members of the family are part of an army plot to overthrow the Sultan and install a secular government. The conspirators, however, cannot agree on the relationship of Turkish nationalism to the many minorities that are part of the Ottoman Empire. (A Greek son-in-law has been killed by nationalists in a version of ethnic cleansing.)
The summer house was built as a place of exile for a former favorite and storyteller who was banished after criticizing the Sultan. Another member of...
(The entire section is 629 words.)
SOURCE: Ali, Tariq, and David Barsamian. “Tariq Ali.” Progressive 66, no. 1 (January 2002): 31-4.
[In the following interview, originally conducted in November 2001, Ali discusses the relationship between the United States and Pakistan as well as the worldwide war on terrorism.]
Tariq Ali was born in 1943 in Lahore, in what was then British-controlled India. He was educated in Pakistan and then at Oxford. His opposition to the military dictatorship in Pakistan during the 1960s led to permanent exile in Britain. He was active in the anti-war movement in Europe during the late 1960s.
Ali is a longstanding editor of New Left Review and has written more than a dozen books on history and politics. His forthcoming book is The Clash of Fundamentalism: Crusades, Jihad, and Modernity. He also has been working on two sets of novels. Three novels of the “Islamic Quintet” have been published by Verso: Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, The Book of Saladin, and The Stone Woman. They portray Islamic civilization in a way that he says “run counter to the standard views.” His “Fall of Communism” trilogy has seen the publication of Redemption and Fear of Mirrors. Ali's creative output extends to scripts for stage and screen. A short play of his on Iraq was recently performed at Cooper Union in New York. A veritable “all 'rounder,” as...
(The entire section is 2741 words.)
SOURCE: Hume, Mick. “Expect Blowback.” New Statesman 131, no. 4587 (13 May 2002): 50-1.
[In the following review, Hume compares and contrasts The Clash of Fundamentalisms with Gilles Kepel's Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam.]
Like some dreadful progressive rock album of the 1970s, Tariq Ali's new book [The Clash of Fundamentalisms] seems likely to become better known for its cover than its contents. The cover is intended to illustrate what the author calls “the clash of fundamentalisms” by depicting George W Bush as a mullah and Osama Bin Laden as a US president. It succeeds only in illustrating, unintentionally, this messy book's own identity crisis, caught as it is between Ali's original plan for a history of Islam and his post-11 September attempt to tack on a theory of everything.
Declaring that he wants to “explain why much of the world doesn't see the [US] Empire as ‘good’”, Ali outlines how the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were celebrated not only in the Arab world, but from Latin America to China. He does not mention the rabidly anti-American response from many of his friends on the liberal left in the west, who suggested that the US, and Wall Street in particular, had more or less got what it deserved—as if the office workers and firefighters killed in the twin towers had personally been starving Iraqi babies. This was the...
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SOURCE: Sennett, Richard. “They Mean Well.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5175 (7 June 2002): 6-8.
[In the following review, Sennett compares and contrasts the central arguments of The Clash of Fundamentalisms with Fred Halliday's Two Hours That Shook the World.]
What did the United States learn from September 11? The massacre has hardened the unilateralist arteries of the Government; many old scores from another era, such as isolating Cuba and North Korea or punishing Iran, are being settled today in the name of fighting terrorism. The American people remain angry, but many are increasingly bewildered by the world beyond America's borders. The plaint of ordinary Americans, “Why do they hate us?” may be naive, but it is well-meaning and deserves honest answers.
People who could do so have largely failed to provide these answers. Print journalists are reporting government spin as hard fact. The airwaves are filled with such shows as The Military Diaries, produced by R. J. Cutler, aiming to provide “militainment”. American and British propaganda films from the Second World put out “Military Diaries” to explain to soldiers where they were going, what they would do there and why they were doing it. “Militainment”, by contrast, focuses on feelings; The Military Diaries focus on what soldiers are eating, what music they are listening to, and how long...
(The entire section is 2535 words.)
SOURCE: Arnove, Anthony. “Islam's Divided Crescent.” Nation 275, no. 2 (8 July 2002): 25-6.
[In the following review, Arnove offers a generally positive assessment of The Clash of Fundamentalisms, but argues that the work would have been stronger if Ali had proposed alternatives to modern Islamism.]
On September 23, 2001, midpoint between the horrific events of September 11 and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, the New York Times ran an intriguing headline. “Forget the Past: It's a War Unlike Any Other,” it advised, above an article by John Kifner noting that “Air Force bombers are heading toward distant airfields to fight a shadowy foe flitting through the mountains in a deeply hostile land already so poor and so ruined by two decades of war that [it] is virtually bereft of targets.” It was a poor headline for an article that began by noting the long history of conflicts among great powers over control of Central Asia, but it was a message with a significant degree of resonance.
History was often being ignored in the heated discussions of the coming war and the attacks that provoked it, of course, but usually without anyone having to instruct us to forget it. Pundits and politicians alike could draw on a long tradition of keeping the public ill informed about the role of the United States in the world. And once the “war on terrorism” actually...
(The entire section is 1792 words.)
SOURCE: Powell, Sara. Review of The Clash of Fundamentalisms, by Tariq Ali. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 21, no. 8 (November 2002): 102.
[In the following review, Powell praises The Clash of Fundamentalisms, calling the work “a must read.”]
There's an old saying that you can't judge a book by its cover. With Tariq Ali's latest offering, however, many people do. You can't miss it: a picture of George Bush in Osama bin Laden's beard and turban, against a blood red background. As we have taken it to conferences throughout the summer, the cover has sold a lot of books, and generated even more double takes. (The back cover shows Bin Laden in a Bush suit and tie behind a presidential podium.)
But it's the interior of a book that counts, and what is enclosed between Bush and Bin Laden is a treasure that both men—and you—should read. Written in response to the terror attack on the U.S. in September of last year. Ali's Clash of Fundamentalisms is a refutation of Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, arguing instead that rival fundamentalisms—Islamism on one side, imperialism on the other—are the forces directing much of the world today. Both, Ali argues, must be opposed. To facilitate such opposition, he provides the historical context in which modern Islamism and U.S. imperialism arose.
Ranging widely throughout history to...
(The entire section is 888 words.)
Erol, Sibel. Review of The Stone Woman, by Tariq Ali. Middle East Journal 55, no. 2 (spring 2001): 340-42.
Erol views The Stone Woman as a historical soap opera and describes the novel as superficial, contradictory, and unfulfilling.
Rhodes, Fred. Review of The Clash of Fundamentalisms, by Tariq Ali. Middle East (September 2002): 65.
Rhodes praises The Clash of Fundamentalisms, noting that the work “blends history, literature, politics and autobiography to challenge the conformist culture of our times.”
Smith, Jeremy. Review of The Clash of Fundamentalisms, by Tariq Ali. Ecologist 32, no. 5 (June 2002): 45-6.
Smith evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of The Clash of Fundamentalisms.
Additional coverage of Ali's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vols. 25-28R; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 10, 99; and Literature Resource Center.
(The entire section is 133 words.)