Robert Irwin The Alhambra

ISBN 13: 9780674015685

The Alhambra

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9780674015685: The Alhambra
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Read the Bldg Blog interview with Mary Beard about the Wonders of the World series (Part I and Part II)

The Alhambra has long been a byword for exotic and melancholy beauty. In his absorbing new book, Robert Irwin, Arabist and novelist, examines its history and allure.

The Alhambra is the only Muslim palace to have survived since the Middle Ages. Built by a threatened dynasty of Muslim Spain, it was preserved as a monument to the triumph of Christianity. Every day thousands of tourists enter this magnificent site to be awestruck by its towers and courts, its fountained gardens, its honeycombed ceilings and intricate tile work. It is a complex full of mysteries--even its purpose is unclear. Its sophisticated ornamentation is not indiscriminate but full of hidden meaning. Its most impressive buildings were designed not by architects, but by philosophers and poets. The Alhambra, which resembles a fairy-tale palace, was constructed by slave labor in an era of economic decline, plague, and political violence. Its sumptuously appointed halls have lain witness to murder and mayhem. Yet its influence on art and on literature--including Orientalist painting and the architecture of cinemas, Washington Irving and Jorge Luis Borges--has been lasting and significant. As our guide to this architectural masterpiece, Robert Irwin allows us to fully understand the impact of the Alhambra.

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About the Author:

Robert Irwin lives in London. His fiction includes The Arabian Nightmare and Exquisite Corpse. His many books and articles on Islamic subjects include The Arabian Nights: A Companion and Islamic Art.

Review:

Robert Irwin writes beautifully and is dauntingly clever but the stunning thing about him is his originality.
--Ruth Rendell

Irwin's book is a learned but entertaining companion for any visitor.
--Oleg Grabar

[Irwin] brings the majestic ruins to life. (Newsweek)

This book captures and conveys the mysterious attractions of the Alhambra.
--Doris Lessing (The Spectator 2004-01-17)

[A] fascinating book.
--Malise Ruthven (Sunday Times 2004-01-04)

Irwin's book is both a perfect introduction to the place and a first-rate account of its history.
--Mark Cocker (The Guardian 2004-01-10)

Edward Said pointed out that in writing about the Arab world, authors always have an agenda. Perhaps Irwin has replaced a Romantic illusion about the Alhambra with one more attractive to the New Age. Irwin is, however, modest about the possibility of ever knowing what the Alhambra was for. And his agenda seems to be nothing more sinister than to get us to look once more and to marvel once again at something we only thought we knew.
--Robin Banerji (The Prospect 2004-01-22)

[A] delicious, tart monograph.
--Vera Rule (The Independent on Sunday 2004-01-11)

In this rich, concise contribution to the literature, Robert Irwin uses his vast knowledge of medieval Islam to illumine both myth and reality, history and imagination, without disenchanting the romantic reader...Having been to the Alhambra many times, after reading this wonderful book I wished to go back--and see it for the first time.
--Shusha Guppy (The Independent 2004-02-13)

A fascinating and very manageable guide. Irwin takes in the history of the Alhambra's inhabitants, its cultural importance to Westerners and to a new generation of Islamic writers.
--Mirand France (Daily Telegraph 2004-01-17)

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