The book: Samarkand, by Amin Maalouf
The edition: French (original) version, as published by Livre de Poche (paperback), 315 pages
The story: the first half of the book, set in Persia in the 11th century, is the story of Omar Khayyam, of his life and his love for a poetess, and of how he poured it all into his Rubaiyat; the second half is the story of Benjamin O. Lessage, who lives across the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, falls in love with the Rubaiyat and gets involved in its story.
My experience with the book & my thoughts: this is not the first book by Maalouf that I have read, and as always I was not disappointed: he’s good at transporting readers to the mysterious Orient of the past, at charming them with hints of the unknown.
What I liked: a well constructed (and extremely charming) historical context.
What I didn’t like: characters. Not that they were less than well done: but I just found them unpleasant and did not agree with their loves and hates.
In the author’s own words: here, in Italian.
Links to better understand this book:
- Wikipedia entry on Omar Khayyam
- Librivox entry on the Rubaiyat, with e-text and MP3 files
- A site dedicated to the Rubaiyat, with an analisys of different English editions and more
Random question: if an original manuscript didn’t exist, what was the “Rubaiyat” making sensation as part of the Titanic cargo?
Read this if: if you are looking for Arabian/classic Oriental ambiance; also, if you like Khayyam’s Rubaiyat and/or other works by Maalouf; more generally, if you are interested in a novel about the relationship between poetry and life.