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Anthony Sattin rss

King Nebuchadnezzar leaving Tyre Photo: Getty

A treasure-trove of grisly Arab tales may appeal more to an Isis fighter than your average British reader

13 December 2014
Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange Malcolm C. Lyons, with an introduction by Robert Irwin

Penguin Classics, pp.447, £25, ISBN: 9780141395036

The marvellous tales of the title are not just confined to the contents of this book, for the travels and travails of the lone manuscript in which they were inscribed… Read more

American beat poet Allen Ginsberg Photo: Getty

American Smoke, by Iain Sinclair - review

23 November 2013
American Smoke Iain Sinclair

Hamish Hamilton, pp.309, £20, ISBN: 9780241145272

If you have read Iain Sinclair’s books you will know that he is a stylist with a love of language. You will also know that he has opinions to express… Read more

The Last Train to Zona Verde, by Paul Theroux - review

1 June 2013
The Last Train to Zona Verde: Overland from Cape Town to Angola Paul Theroux

Hamish Hamilton, pp.353, £20, ISBN: 9780241143674

Paul Theroux has produced some of the best travel books of the past 50 years, and some of the lamest. His latest work shrieks swansong, from its title — The… Read more

'O My America!', by Sara Wheeler - review

9 March 2013
O My America! Sara Wheeler

Cape, pp.267, £18.99, ISBN: 9780241145364

You might not expect Sara Wheeler, the intrepid literary traveller, to be anxious about passing the half-century point. Surely a person who can survive the mental and physical rigours of… Read more

A duty to protest

24 November 2012
There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra Chinua Achebe

Allen Lane, pp.352, £20, ISBN: 9781846145766

A few years ago, in West Africa, a woman came up to me and said, ‘You know what’s wrong with our men? They go crazy once they get power. Crazy… Read more

Twists and turns through history

7 July 2012
Meander: East to West Along a Turkish River Jeremy Seal

Chatto, pp.416, 16.99, ISBN: 9780701183479

Jeremy Seal is a Turkophile, but don’t look to him for a grand history of the republic or lives of the Ottoman sultans. That is not his way. He prefers… Read more

Spirit of place

21 January 2012
Cairo: My City, Our Revolution Ahdaf Soueif

Bloomsbury, pp.202, 14.99

There are two ways of viewing the changes sweeping through the Arab world in general and Cairo in particular. There is the significance of individual events, such as the moment… Read more

Malice in the Middle East

6 August 2011
A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle that Shaped the Middle East James Barr

Simon & Schuster, pp.464, 25

What does it take to shock a writer? At the beginning of his study on the shaping of the modern Middle East, the academic James Barr describes his eyes bulging… Read more

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Sixties mystic

28 May 2011
Memoirs of a Dervish Robert Irwin

Profile, pp.239, 14.99

The misery memoir is the fad of the moment. We seem to have a limitless desire to delve into other people’s hardships. Robert Irwin has gladly shown the way to… Read more

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The dominoes rally

5 February 2011

First Tunisia, then Egypt. Whatever next? The laws of the Arab world are supposed to prohibit any domino effect: the military is supposed to be too strong, the governments too… Read more

The last five hundred years

25 November 2009
The Arabs: A History Eugene Rogan

Allen Lane, pp.553, 25

In the aftermath of the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center, an elderly Arab from the Gulf told me that he thought it was the work of American agents.… Read more

Two sides of the dark continent

28 May 2008
The Eye of the Leopard Henning Mankell

Harvill Secker, pp.315, 12.99

The Miracle at Speedy Motors Alexander McCall Smith

Little Brown, pp.256, 14.99

How would you like your Africa? Sweet and smiling or bold and bloody? A reassurance of a fundamental human goodness or a suspicion that we are all rotten to the… Read more

Earning an easy chair

20 February 2008
Going As Far As I Can Duncan Fallowell

Profile Books, pp.279, 12.99

If you were left a legacy by a friend would you tuck it away, blow it on art, or buy something for your home or the person you share it… Read more

In the steps of Stanley

28 June 2007
Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart Tim Butcher

Chatto, pp.363, 12.99

Of all the world’s under- developed and misruled countries few can compete with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The former Belgian Congo, more recently known as Zaire, has lived… Read more

The future is black

22 March 2007
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun Peter Godwin

Picador, pp.342, 16.99

The title of Peter Godwin’s beautifully written and magnificently poignant memoir is taken from Zulu lore, which states that solar eclipses are caused by a celestial crocodile eating the sun.… Read more

A place of wonders and horrors

3 December 2005
The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

HarperCollins, pp.298, 14.99

For his fifth travel book, Philip Marsden has returned to his roots; not to his native Cornwall, but to the country that gave birth to his travel writing. Marsden first… Read more

East and West — when the twain meet

19 November 2005
Meetings with Remarkable Muslims edited by Rose Baring and Barnaby Rogerson

Eland, pp.312, 18.99

As far as love affairs go, the relationship between British travel writers and Islam has been both intense and long-lasting. From Orientalists such as Richard Burton and Edward Lane installed… Read more

Payment on delivery

13 August 2005
Place of Reeds Caitlin Davies

Simon & Schuster, pp.436, 12.99

Picture this scene: in the delivery room of a Botswana hospital, a woman howls with the pain of childbirth and her midwife becomes increasingly bothered that she is disturbing the… Read more

A fantasist of the first order

23 July 2005

Many years ago, in one of those precious moments of seren- dipity, I came across a novel called Ali and Nino, set in the Azerbaijani city of Baku. This seductive,… Read more