Maalouf, Amin "Samarcande" - 1988
I think a lot of words just sound like paradise, dream words that take me to a magic place like from 1001 Nights: Samarkand is one of them. Doesn't it just make you think of mosques and minarets, oriental markets and blue tiled places?
Samarkand is written by Lebanese-born French author Amin Maalouf whose works are written in French. But a lot of it has been translated into English.
This novel takes us from the life of poet, mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyám and his poetry collection Rubaiyat in Samarkand of the 11th century to the voyage of the fictional character Benjamin O. Lesage on the Titanic in 1912. I had never heard of Omar Khayyám and was happy to learn not just about his poetry but especially about his life and that of his contemporaries in an area that is as unknown to me and most people in Europe in that time as it is today. I have learned quite a few things about Persian and Muslim history.
Very well written account of a highly interesting topic. I loved this book.
I also really appreciated the map they had in the back showing the reader all the names of those far away places.
From the back cover:
"Accused of mocking the inviolate codes of Islam, the Persian poet and sage Omar Khayyam fortuitously finds sympathy with the very man who is to judge his alleged crimes. Recognising genius, the judge decides to spare him and gives him instead a small, blank book, encouraging him to confine his thoughts to it alone. Thus begins the seamless blend of fact and fiction that is Samarkand. Vividly re-creating the history of the manuscript of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Amin Maalouf spans continents and centuries with breathtaking vision: the dusky exoticism of 11th-century Persia, with its poetesses and assassins; the same country's struggles nine hundred years later, seen through the eyes of an American academic obsessed with finding the original manuscript; and the fated maiden voyage of the Titanic, whose tragedy led to the Rubaiyat's final resting place - all are brought to life with keen assurance by this gifted and award-winning writer."