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The Rock of Tanios Hardcover – October, 1994

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At age 15, in 1836, Tanios, the illegitimate son of a Lebanese Catholic sheikh, turns completely white-haired-an omen that he must be a "wise fool," or "old-head," one who appears briefly to redress injustice in troubled times. In this seductive, exotic novel, Maalouf (Leo Africanus) limns a protagonist who is an endearing mixture of precocious maturity and naivete, of remorse and resolve. Tanios's adoptive father, Gerios, the sheikh's servile majordomo, rashly murders a prelate who had lured away Tanios's girlfriend for his own nephew. Terrified, Tanios and Gerios flee to Cyprus, where the wise fool is recruited by an English spymaster in a scheme to topple the Emir, a Middle Eastern tyrant whose agents entrap Gerios and have him hanged. Tanios, who displays last-minute leniency toward the Emir, embodies the spirit of justice tempered by mercy, an alternative to the cycle of revenge and violence that holds a fractious region in its grip; and so he gives modern relevance to a leisurely tale full of intrigue, twists of fate and seedy imperialist jockeying by the French, English, Turks and Egyptians.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Journalist and novelist Maalouf won the 1993 Goncourt Prize for his depiction of social and political turmoil in Lebanon during the 1880s, which is based on a true story. His book concerns not only rapidly changing social ties but also the traditional bonds and customs that are the essential fabric of a culture. Using a refreshing, nearly folkloric style that turns his protagonist, Tanios, into a classic hero, Maalouf details the shifting alliances and international power struggles that follow the murder of a patriarch. As a result, the reader is propelled into the world of myth yet gains a very real sympathy for the vivid characters. Like any good storyteller, Maalouf gives you the facts but also the paradoxes, leaving you with a sense of mystery. Recommended for all libraries with historical fiction collections.
Susan M. Olcott, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 275 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller; 1st edition (October 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807613657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807613658
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,339,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Iman Al Omrani on December 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
`In our village, the rocks had names.' With the first words I knew that I was going to delve into this book and would not bring myself to put it down until I had finished!
Set in 19th century Lebanon, The title "The Rock of Tanios" refers to a peculiar rock formation, looking like a great stone chair, that dominated the Lebanese village of Kfaryabda. The central characters are Sheikh Francis, a Christian Arab, and the sheikh's illegitimate offspring, Tanios. When I first started reading the book, I was on the quest to find why the rock was named after Tanios. Little did I know that that was the last thing that I was going to learn from this gripping tale. Through the fates and legends of these characters Maalouf creates a historical romance filled with local myths, political games, treachery, and love.
I would have to say that one of Maalouf's main themes is lost or forbidden love; how we fall in love with what's different from us, and discover we're different from what we thought we were.
And, it is forbidden love, which tears Tanios' family apart and drives him into exile.
Deceiving as hope might be, a twist in fate and luck brings Tanios back to his mother's bosom. Ironically, as he finally makes it to his beloved home, Tanios is left yet again as the estranged boy who did not truly know his own identity, or did he?
An amazing read, Maalouf has done it again. A prize well deserved for his fascinating imagination to mix true life with fiction.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a terrific example of historical fiction and well deserving of the Prix Goncourt. It contains the two most important aspects of historical fiction. First, great historical fiction must contain a great deal of information on the era and the people in which the story is told. It really must convey the `feel' of the period. This story takes place (primarily) in a Druze village of Lebanon in the early to mid 1800s. You'll learn quite a bit about the complexities of 19th century Lebanese society and the larger scale geopolitical machinations between the French, British, Ottomans, and Egyptians, of which the proto-Lebanese state is caught helplessly in the middle. Second, the story contains a thoughtful tale about human ideals and relationships that is relevant and meaningful today. Maalouf succeeds admirably on both counts. The plot centers around a Druze youth who may or may not be the illegitimate child of the local sheik. This is a story about life's lessons and frustrations, and determining one's role in the world. Without giving too much away, the ending is extremely well done. Tanios (the main character) comes full circle, going from outcast to power broker, and realizes that being at the top isn't all that he thought it would be. Highly recommended.
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By A Customer on August 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A wonderfull work by a good writer. Being Lebanese my self, I appreciate the way Amin shows the way of life in Lebanon during the era of Shiks and Emirs. He presented a fiction that addressed the human nature from different prespective: greed, power, ambition, love, respect, revenge, anger, lust, and above all the inner peychological confusion of a kid realising that his father may not be his real father, and all its results. I greatly enjoyed the inclusion of the Lebanese words in the book, though translated into English, you have to be Lebanese to truly feel the meaning.
For me also, this fiction shows that the way of life in the Lebanese village's life of the 1800s in its reality still have echos in the daily political life of today's Lebanon.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lovely way to show the history of a country at a certain period through the eventful life of Tanios and his father. Their daily issues, their daily fun, troubles, traditions, all intertwined with the events that shaped the country at the time. The use of the traditional Lebanese nicknames and jokes was very nicely portrayed and helped make me feel as if I just jumped back in time to witness that era.

A great read, got me attached since page one, and couldn't let go of the book until it finished. Very simple yet very meaningful and full of beautiful stories that will catch your imagination with more historical knowledge.
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Format: Hardcover
this novel is complete: history, romance, ethics, drama, comedy. all are present in a superb text with an easy and clear language.

it took me to a different world in all its details. it documents for a different trend of life many people want to remember, be it for its misery or its happiness.

i strongly recommend it .
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this book and, as expected with Maalouf, I was enchanted. It reads like a fairy tale only much closer to reality (at least for myself). All vices from hate to lust are represented with such vivid imagery, The kind of book that makes you reflect after every page.
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By A Customer on November 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book for Maalouf that I've read and he's since become my favourite author.
Make sure that you read Leo Africanus and Samarkand... I think they're somewhat better than Rock of Tanios as they have more fact and substance.
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