Vladimir Bartol’s ALAMUT

26 Dec

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Today I want to write about a book that I have recently read through. Vladimir Bartol’s Alamut. Bartol takes us to a journey into the depths of Hasan-i Sabbah’s mysterious world – of whom, today, many mention with awe. The book is based on historical facts as well as on fiction. However, it doesn’t stop being absorbing even for a moment catching reader’s full attention.

Hasan-i Sabbah

Much had been said about Hasan-i Sabbah. From sending his fedayeen to assasination to his heretical order. Bartol depicts Sabbah as a man of cause with an agnostic state of mind having dedicated his life to his cause and who thinks everything is permitted on this path.

Ever since I read Samarkand of Amin Maalouf, I’ve been more and more interested in the epoch. Late 11th century. The Seljuk Empire enjoys the zenith of its power. Three men leaves their marks on the period. Nizam-al Mulk, Omar Khayyam and Hasan Sabbah. One ruled, one lead a life of pleasure and the latter terrorized.

Sabbah’s main purpose is to tear down the Turkish Dynasty and drive the turks off Iran which was a also a great country way before the turks. He contemplates a great plan to carry out his ambitions. His most significant weapon is the fanatic sentiments of people. He makes them believe that he is a god-sent prophet bearing the key to heaven. Indeed to him “nothing is true, everything is permitted”. His fedayeen march to death with joy.


Not to criticize but just as a side fact I want to add a few things. In the book, Omar, Hasan and Nizam are depicted as class mates when they were young which is contradictory with the historical facts. According to resources Nizam is way older than the other two. Moreover, Malik Shah is killed by a fedayeen which is also disputed. Again the historical resources cite that he might have died of botulism or been killed by some men loyal to Nizam.

By the way I had no idea about the author prior to reading the book. I thought the book was written not long ago. So I was really surprised when I learnt that the Slovene writer Bartol wrote it in 1938.

Let’s end the post with some fun facts of the epoch.

  1. Omar Khayyam was the preeminent poet and researcher of the era who received great respect by the then statesmen. I recommend you to check some of his Rubaiyat and scientific researches. Though there are many fake quatrains around attributed to him some of his Rubaiyat still trigger controversy in Turkey. Turkey’s acclaimed pianist Fazıl SAY was sued for quoting a quatrain allegedly belonging to Omar on Tweeter.
  2. Nizam-al Mulk was the vizier of the Seljuk Empire. His name means “good order of the kingdom” I don’t remember any history book at Turkish schools referred to his persian origins. So it was when I was young. Maybe today’s turkish history books are different. I’m not sure.
  3. The word assassin is believed to derive from the word Hashshashin. Hashhash means opium.
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Posted by on December 26, 2012 in Books


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