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Altai

by Wu Ming

An historical adventure and sprawling epic telling of the real conflicts between 16C Mediterranean Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities, told through the eyes of a fictional hero. Written by a renowned Italian writing collective I found this to be initially quite hard to get into and never fully got attached or invested in the stories or characters. An interesting, wide-reaching and very descriptive read but overall somewhat detached.


Extract

I'm getting to know you, capital of the empire. I'm adapting myself to the way you punctuate your time. ... I'm getting to know you Byzantium, New Rome, Rūmiyya al-Kubrā, Qostantiniyye, Istanbul, city of damp, heavy air. On mornings when the sky is clear, I dream of rising into the wind and flying, seeing you from above, but the wind is heavy, thick with smells from the tanning works of Yedikule, the glue factories, the guts being turned into ropes. Every city has a background smell: Venice is mold and brackishness; Salonika reeks of piss; Constantinople breathes wet earth and weariness and dreams.

Translated by Shaun Whitehead

Parallels

Q by Luther Blissett
 

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