A book, first published by Quartet in English in 1988, by the French writer, Catherine Hermary-Vieille, was awarded the prestigious Prix Femina when it first appeared in France.
Beautifully translated by Charles Penwarden, it retained the magic of the French version and had been very well received by those who had the privilege of reading the haunting story that the book so cleverly weaved.
Here is a summary to titillate any potential bookworm:
Over ten consecutive evenings a dying Ahmed tells the story of his old master’s life. The story is so powerful and the effect on his listeners so great, Ahmed is named The Grand Vizier of the Night.
Set in the Islamic Empire in 785 AD, a tale of power, war, love and religion unfolds. It begins with Arab Harun-al-Rashid becoming Caliph of the Empire. Harun soon falls in love with a Persian man, Ja’far, but is devastated to find the love is unrequited. Ja’far is in love with the Caliph’s sister, Abassa. Harun allows the couple to marry, but forbids the consummation of the marriage. His order is defied and Abassa soon gives birth to twins. They have betrayed their absolute leader and will suffer the consequences.
Catherine Hermary-Vieille explores the restrictions of life in the Islamic court and the traditional rites of marriage and religion. With the struggles of man and woman pervading the pages, The Grand Vizier of the Night – reissued a quarter of a century after Quartet Books first published the book in English – is a profound commentary on the human condition.
An exotic novel full of unexpected nuances, a page-turner if ever there was one, worthy of the attention of all book lovers who hanker after literary creativity, in a novel that encapsulates the art of good story-telling.
At £10 a copy, the book makes an ideal Christmas present that one can really afford. Buy a copy now before the festive rush begins.