From the sublimities of the Koran to the crudest possible insults, ghost stories to scholarly debates, tales of revenge to rapturous love poetry, and a sorcerer's manual with instructions for making 'killer castanets', classical Arabic literature is full of surprises and little-known delights. This anthology covers the whole period from the fifth to the sixteenth centuries, and countries all the way from Afghanistan to Spain (including verse written on the walls of the Alhambra in Granada). Through his expansive commentary and notes, Robert Irwin provides an informative history of Arabic literature. He explores the various genres and diverse literary environments in which Arabic prose and poetry were created from the desert to the salon and mosque - and gives short biographies of the caliphs, princesses, scribes, dandies, warriors and mystics who created this rich literary culture.
'Splendid and constantly entertaining ... It gives that nicest of pleasures, a guide round deeply unfamiliar ground by an amused, literate companion ... Irwin bas found some enchanting stuff. Some of it is grand and epic, [some] vulgar or earthy' Philip Hensher, Spectator
'Encyclopedic but accessible ... embeds excerpts from classical Arabic texts in an urbane historical survey' Leah Price, London Review of Books
'Learned, judicious and lively' Tarif Khalidi, The Times Literary Supplement
'As a taste of new excitements and pleasures, this collection is unequalled for scholarship and entertainment... The extraordinary sensuality found in early Arabic verse is a revelation' Jane Jakeman, Independent