- Explore more great deals on thousands of titles in our Deals in Books store.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Harem: The World Behind the Veil Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 1991
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Special offers and product promotions
From Publishers Weekly
This study considers the everyday lives of odalisques, the harem as the Moslem equivalent of purdah and male-dominated harem life as symbolic of the collective unconscious. "Ultimately, the text is a choppy amalgam of history, reminiscence, conjecture and intermittently overblown writing," said PW . "Much more evocative are the 125 photographs and reproductions of art works included here."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Reading this book is like watching a documentary. Decorated with lush photography and paintings, it animates the women who lived in this time and place. Croutier covers all elements of the harem life: the baths that were a quotidian ritual, the poetry of the women's voices, an emotional life as multifaceted as the gems adorning them, the princesses, high-ranking concubines, and the eunuchs who surrounded them. There is also mention of the ordinary harem of domestic households. This rich history is laid out like a damask tapestry. The author's first person narrative makes the prose all the more alluring.
The harem life was not easy. It was an imprisoned life, a segregated complex of buildings populated mostly by foreign slaves. A Muslim Turk could not be a consort to the Sultan as slavery was forbidden in Islam. Women were kidnapped or sold into the slave market just as cattle were. In some ways, the Turks are still ashamed of such a history, and it was abolished in the early twentieth century. Even Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revolutionary leader and creator of the modern Turkish republic, had said: "Is it possible that, while one half of a community stays chained to the ground, the other half can rise to the skies?" Women could rarely leave the walls of the harem, but as oppressive as it could be, it was still a place of rich culture where a network of women turned to each other for comfort and enjoyed as much of its splendor as they could.
Researched extensively, Harem offers a rare glimpse into the fascinating yet misunderstood heritage of women in the Ottoman Empire.
In 1790, one sale document reads, you could buy seven women slaves for 1,000 to 2,000 kurush. One horse would cost 5,000 kurush. Kidnapped or sold by their parents, the trip to the harem was one-way--once you went in you never came out. Unless the sultan didn't like you or you refused to convert to Islam or failed to learn Arabic, in which case he could post you for resale on the medieval equivalent of eBay.
If in the rare event you became the favorite of the sultan, your troubles were not over. Your rivals might poison you or have you tied in a sack and thrown into the Bosphorous (one particularly mad sultan had his entire harem so disposed of). If you had a son, you became the automatic enemy of every other woman in the harem who also had a son with aspirations of succeeding to his father's power.
The rest of your time, always supposing you survived, was spent in gossip, eating and smoking opium, and going to the baths.
The very first paragraph of the introduction is the most poignant, written by an anonymous woman of the harem:
I am a harem woman, an Ottoman slave. I was conceived in an act of contemptuous rape and born in a sumptuous palace. Hot sand is my father; the Bosphorus, my mother; wisdom, my destiny; ignorance, my doom. I am richly dressed and poorly regarded; I am a slave-owner and a slave. I am anonymous, I am infamous; one thousand and one tales have been written about me. My home is this place were gods are buried and devils breed, the land of holiness, the backyard of hell.
Life in a harem must have been unutterably boring. Seldom have I been so glad to have been born in the here and now.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It reveals the tragically beautiful world of hidden women from the Great Seraglio, spiced with personal anecdotes from the author's own family...Read more