Alamut (1938 novel)
Cover of the English translation of the novel.
|Publisher||Scala House Press|
|Media type||Print ()|
|Dewey Decimal||891.8/435 22|
|LC Classification||PG1918.B33 A7813 2004|
Bartol first started to conceive the novel in the early 1930s, when he lived in Paris. In the French capital, he met with the Slovene literary critic Josip Vidmar, who introduced him to the story of Hassan-i Sabbah. A further stimulation for the novel came from the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia perpetrated by Croatian and Bulgarian radical nationalists, on the alleged commission of the Italian Fascist government. When it was originally published, the novel was sarcastically dedicated to Benito Mussolini.
The maxim of the novel is "Nothing is true, everything is permitted".
The novel is set in the 11th century at the fortress of Alamut (Persian: الموت), which was seized by the leader of the Ismailis, Hassan-i Sabbah or Sayyiduna (سیدنا, "Our Master"). At the start of the story, he is gathering an army for the purpose of attacking the Seljuk Empire, which has taken over possession of Iran. The story commences with the journey of young ibn Tahir, who is, according to his family's wish, intending to join the Alamut garrison. There, he is appointed to the squad of the most valiant soldiers, named the fedai (فدائی). Fedai are expected to obey orders without any demur, death being not an obstacle. During their demanding training, they come to be convinced that they shall go to heaven immediately after their death if they die in the line of duty. Hassan managed to achieve such level of obedience by deceiving his soldiers—he gave them drugs (hashish) to numb them and ordered afterwards that they be carried into the gardens behind the fortress, which were made into a simulacrum of heaven, including houris. Therefore, fedayin believe that Allah has given Hassan the power to send anybody into the Heaven for a certain period. Moreover, some of the fedayin fall in love with houris, and Hassan unscrupulously uses that to his advantage.
Meanwhile, the Seljuk army besieges Alamut. Some of the soldiers are captured and Hassan decides to demonstrate his power to them. He orders a pair of fedayin (Yusuf and Suleiman) to kill themselves; Suleiman by stabbing himself, Yusuf by jumping off of a tower. They fulfill their master's order with a smile on their face, thinking that they will soon rejoice with their beloved in heaven. Afterwards, Hassan orders ibn Tahir to go and kill the grand vizier of the Seljuk sultan Nizam al-Mulk. Hassan wants to take vengeance for al-Mulk's treachery against him long ago. Ibn Tahir stabs the vizier, but, before he passes away, the vizier reveals the truth of Hassan's deceptions to his murderer. Ibn Tahir decides to return to Alamut and kill Hassan. When ibn Tahir returns, Hassan receives him and also reveals him his true motto: "Nothing is true, everything is permitted". Then, he lets ibn Tahir go, to start a long journey around the world. Another fedai kills the Seljuk Sultan and the Seljuk empire dissolves. The fight for the Seljuk throne begins. Hassan encloses himself in a tower, determined to work until the end of his days. He transfers the power over the Ismaelits to the hands of his faithful dai, military, and religious chiefs.
Some of the contemporaneous literary critics, such as Lino Legiša, have interpreted it as an allegory of the TIGR, an organization formed in order to fight the Fascist Italianization in the ex-Austrian Littoral.
The novel was not published in English until 2004. Earlier it was translated into about 18 other languages including Czech (1946), Serbian (1954), French (1988), Spanish (1989), Italian (1989), German (1992), Turkish, Persian (1995), Arabic, Greek, Korean and Slovak. More recently it has been translated into Hebrew (2003), Hungarian (2005) and Finnish (2008).
- Razmerje med Bartolovo kratko in dolgo prozo (Al Araf in Alamut), zbornik Obdobja, št. 23, (Slovenska kratka pripovedna proza, ur. Irena Novak-Popov, Ljubljana: FF, 2006, str. 137–44).
- O Bigginsovi interpretaciji Alamuta, 24. november 2004, namenjeno objavi v Slovene Studies).
- Vladimir Bartol: Alamut, English translation, Published by: Scala House Press, Seattle, United States, 2004, ISBN 0-9720287-3-0