BOOK REVIEW / Poetry lovers tricked by a drowned manuscript: Samarkand – Amin Maalouf, Tr. Russell: Harris Quartet Books, pounds Samarkand of the manuscript of the Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam, Amin Maalouf spans Amin Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist and writer. These are the first sentences of Samarkand, an early novel by Amin Maalouf that I read recently, drawn to it because in it, Maalouf weaves.

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Samarkand / Amin Maalouf ; translated by Russell Harris – Details – Trove

The first half of the story revolves around the poet Omar Khayyam, who is given a beautiful leather book in which to write. As the years pass he fills it: The second half of the story is about an American, Benjamin O.


Lesage, who travels to Persia to track down the missing manuscript. He has strong family links to the country, and his middle name is Omar, after the poet.

Samarkand: Amin Maalouf, Russell Harris: : Books

Whilst he is in the country he falls in love with a Persian princess and finds himself embroiled with underground rebels, intent on throwing out all the conflicting foreign influences that control the Persian government. The manuscript, sadly, meets with a sorry end: I loved both halves of the story for different reasons: Wine, poetry, love and nature dominate his being, and yet he is always being chased for advice and drawn into petty court scandals that do not interest him.

The sinking of the Titanic was particularly well done: Such an iconic tragedy is here seen from a distance and consequently loses some of its horror, especially since the real pain we are made to feel is about the loss of the manuscript. I found it fascinating to read such a carefully woven part-fact, part-fiction account of a period of history I know very little about.


This is a multi-layered, engaging novel and I would highly recommend it. I picked this one up in Waterstones on one of my many trips.

I chose it as soon as I saw the name Omar Khayyam — I have two copies of his Rubaiyat, and it is stunning. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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