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Showing 1-10 of 23 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 68 reviews
on March 9, 2010
I was very excited with the prospects of reading a good novel about Persia, especially about Omar Khayyam, but this book left me with an overall sense of disappointment. There is no doubt that Maalouf did superb research for this book and the story has its nice moments. But, I cannot agree with the rave reviews on his writing skills. I felt that he took the easy way out with all aspects of writing. Instead of trying to interlink the two stories (one is of Khayyam, the other is a modern love story/ historical adventure) with flashbacks to the time of Khayyam, for example, he wrote one story first. Then, wrote the second (book II). Even with this easy method, he didn't do a good job. Book I mostly reads as a novel about Khayyam, but when it is convenient, he switches his tone and makes references to historical data as if it is a non-fiction book. With Book II, I thought character development was pretty lame. I never fully understood the hero's (actually he didn't do anything heroic in my opinion) motivation to pursue his travels. I think he was bored, rich and had nothing better to do. I also thought the author showed clear prejudice against Turks. Anyone who was Turkish was described with a negative attribute. Also, throwing in Titanic and talk about the whole disaster in the length of 3 pages was very lame. Couldn't he come up with a better solution for the fate of the greatest Oriental book ever?
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on September 26, 2000
What a wonderful book this was. I have known about the celebrated Omar Khayyam's poetry for quite a while but had never had a chance to learn about his life in detail. Although, technically, this is a work of fiction, it is mostly based on history and specific events. It is both a lesson in ancient and modern oriental history (mainly Persia) interwoven with Omar Khayyam's life and poetry. Maalouf is one of the few people who can write with such eloquence and imagination that keeps you asking for more.
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on February 17, 2002
I won't lie: you have to have a basic knowledge of Persian history to fully enjoy this book (I'm a month into a college course). If you know about bit about the region, though, the story of Omar Khayyam does for Persia what Voltaire's Candide did for France.
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on August 10, 2015
Yet another wonderful book by Amin Maalouf. He paints a vivid picture of 11th century Persia, seen through the eyes of Omar Khatami, philosopher, scientist and poet. A manuscript with a collection of his poems, as well as his biography is lost for centuries after the Mongols burn the library of Alamitos, the stronghold of the Assassin's. It resurfaces in the early 20th century, and Maalouf sketches the struggle of Iran against the Imperial powers of that time, again a fascinating historical period.

Well worth reading for everyone with an interest in history in a beautiful and gripping narrative.
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on October 23, 2014
Fascinating insight into the history and culture of a region that Europe has overlooked, ignored or intentionally misrepresented. A good fictional embellishment for Fred Starr's excellent academic work on this region. Makes me want to read more by Maalouf.
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on June 13, 2016
Amazing storytelling, the likes of which I though were impossible to find again in literature. A historic, emotional and spiritual story unfolding with a very beautiful use of the English language. I don't know if this book was written in English or translated, but the text is beautiful and the story unfolds beautifully (although the story itself is far from being of a rosy hue, it's a poetic-existential razor's edge). Excellent.
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on February 13, 2013
Samarkand is a terrific historic novel. I originally had to read it for a history class I was taking and ended up falling in love with the story. I really don't like reading very much, but this grabbed me from the moment I opened and kept me on the edge of my seat til I turned over the last page. Wonderfully written by Maalouf, truly a work of art.
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on July 19, 2001
The story of Samarkand is woven around the history of the manuscript of the Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam, from its creation by the poet and sage in eleventh-century Persia to its loss when the Titanic sank in 1912. Unwittingly involved in a brawl on the streets of Samarkand, Omar Khayyam is brought before a local judge who recognizes his genius as a poet and gives him a blank book in which to inscribe his verses. Thus the head of a great poet is saved and the Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam is born. The threads of his life become interwoven with the designs of the vizier, Nizam al Mulk, and of Hassan Sabbah, the founder of the Order of the Assassins who later hides the precious manuscript in his famous mountain fortress. At the end of the nineteenth century the poems fire the imagination of the West in Edward Fitzgerald's evocative translation. An American scholar learns of the manuscript's survival and recovers it with the help of a Persian princess. Together they take it on the fateful voyage of the Titanic.
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on June 13, 2005
Enchanting .. I loved it. I felt like diving after the sunken Titanic to dig up the buried Khayyam treasure. "Samarkand" has introduced me to a world that only exists in the books of Amin Maalouf.

Highly recommended!
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on May 1, 2014
I chose to read Samarkand after being required to read Leo Africanus. Both books were not only enjoyable, but left you wanting to discuss the issues raised such as just how amorphous identity is.
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