RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs this riveting novel unfolds—in brilliant, laconic, grimly comic fashion—it becomes apparent that the state is, in its own way, a frightful head. A Medusa, perhaps, with the capacity to destroy. Or, as the courier imagines, an octopus, the only creature he can think of whose head is in the middle of its body. The fleeting thoughts and impulses of Kadare’s characters flutter uselessly around the hard, indelible fact of the state: of its organs and deliberations ... In Kadare’s Istanbul there are newspaper headlines and tourists, a royal theater, couriers traveling by carriage, who don’t belong to the historical period. Are they anachronisms or elements of the surreal or slyly placed hooks that tether the narrative to another period, perhaps our own?
Christopher de Bellaigue
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] fascinating and elegantly written account of the impact of modernity on the Islamic world ... The Islamic Enlightenment introduces us to a fascinating gallery of individuals who would grapple with reform and modernization in theory and practice over the next two centuries ... A book like this can only point to the sheer complexity of Muslim identities, loyalties and accommodations in the modern world, both among the hundreds of millions who lead lives of varying degrees of quiet and the troubled few. Far from spurning or avoiding modernity, Muslims are 'drenched in it,' as de Bellaigue points out, and in tracking the sinews of enlightenment through the last two centuries of Islamic thinking, this brilliant and lively history deserves nothing but praise.