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The Blue Manuscript Hardcover – November 17, 2008


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Hardcover, November 17, 2008
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; First Edition edition (November 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844673081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844673087
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,989,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A strange and engrossing cross-cultural fable.”—Robert Irwin

“It positively teems with colours, sounds, scents and languages ... The Blue Manuscript could hardly be more timely and apposite.”—Charles Palliser

About the Author

Sabiha Al Khemir was born in Tunisia. She is an author, illustrator and Islamic art historian. Her publications span fiction, cultural essays, art history and book illustration. She has also written and presented television documentaries, and was the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Bradford on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Blue Manuscript takes the reader on a journey across continents and through time. It captures the spiritual aspects of artistic creation, the out-of-time-and-space other worldliness of an archaeological dig in a remote desert, and the pressures and politics shaping ancient empires as well as contemporary art markets. Sabitha Al Khemir brilliantly recreates the fervent and visionary obsession of the ancient scribe creating the legendary Blue Manuscript as well as the dogged efforts of the international archaeological team determined to find it.

The reader moves back and forth from the frenetic pace of the contemporary urban metropolis into a rural village marked by the rhythms of weather, folk tradition, faith, and age-old stories. As the days pass, physical and metaphorical doors open, secrets are revealed, and individuals are irrevocably transformed--all through the poetic prose of a scholar who herself is a consummate story teller.

Ultimately, The Blue Manuscript shows us that truth is far more than historical fact, that scholarship can reveal and obscure, and that wisdom comes in many (unanticipated and often inexplicable) forms. As we immerse ourselves in its compelling pages, our own sense of time and space is suspended. Once the tale ends, we remain in its grip and continue to ponder its sensitive and timeless explorations of human motivation and behavior.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Iris Love on November 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Blue Manuscript

A truly AMAZING book! From the very beginning we are drawn into a world where everything has more than one meaning, more than one set of consequences and everything has reverberations back and forth throughout its pages. We encounter people from many countries and many eras although some of them are living in the `modern world'. We travel across the desert with a royal caravan that brings the bones of the royal ancestors towards the founding of the great city of Cairo "carrying the past into the future". There are many reflections and many `parallels' at every turn. But it's an easy read and I found myself sometimes laughing out loud at the gentle humour - and sometimes there was a welling up of emotion that is hard to explain.

An international team of archeologists travels to a remote village in Egypt in search of the manuscript of the title. And from the moment they cross the border at the airport in Cairo they begin a journey in which they (and we) seem see the world more and more through a kind of kaleidoscope of reality. Sometimes we become aware of some of the consequences of actions and events and sometimes it is only later that one interpretation of the events seems to fall into place. A clever use of vivid historical sections underlines this as we are witness to events from history which are interpreted by the modern archeologists, what emerges is a sense of being close to a 'correct' reading of events but that it is just one of the many possible ways to understand what has been encountered.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By YouFightLikeAnneRice.Blogspot.Com on October 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
Sabiha Al Khemir's first American novel (after her British only Waiting in the Future for the Past to Come (Emerging Voices (Quartet))) explores the myth of The Blue Manuscript. Based on an actual Islamic piece of art, Al Khemir's novel explores a "what-if" situation with a team of mismatched archaeologists, translators, professors, scientists, and tour guides who travel to Egypt to uncover it. As the team dig, not only is dirt removed, but also the character's true selves are slowly unearthed.

The key word here is slowly.

While the characters clash, each one is revealed as something sad, lost, yet redeemable (to certain extents) through their search for the artifacts. There's Zohra, a translator lost between two worlds; Glasses, who doesn't reveal his real name, too ashamed of his ethnicity; there's Professor O'Brien who is filled with ambition to prove his theory right; there's Mark who's anxious only for the money. As the novel progress, the walls that kept them apart slowly falls (again the key word is slowly) and the power of art and language becomes more apparent.

While Ah Khemir writes like an artist--at times, it feels like the words themselves are painted--the result is at times painfully sluggish. While not wordy, reading it is molasses-like at times and readers can easily become lost--the characters become unevenly drawn and reader's attention can die.

The Blue Manuscript succeeds as a meditation on art, language, and identity, as well as an exploration of Islamic art and culture, but the story itself is badly paced, slow, and tedious. What aspires to be a novel is lost.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzila on October 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Blue Manuscript by Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir was very poetical. She has a flowing literary style which is artistically akin to her passion for collecting Islamic Art. I read this in preparation for the art exhibition she curated, " Beauty and Belief in the Islamic world." It was interesting to read this novel based upon archeological digs where many shards and objects were collected. It helped bring to life the patterns and words that are very important to this type of art. While it was a novel, it was descriptive of archeological digs and cross cultural interest in art and antiquities.
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