Vladimir Bartol: Alamut

August 25, 2021

From what I gather, Alamut is a literary anomaly.

It is also here that great writing intersects with my fascination for Iran.

But first, the trivia:
— This novel became an inspiration for Assassin’s Creed, although it was published long before the era of video games.
— It was written in 1938, after Slovenian Vladimir Bartol spent ten years of extensive research on the Assassins, as a response to the rise of totalitarianism in Europe.
— Bartol intended to dedicate the first edition to Benito Mussolini, but it goes without saying that no publisher would have allowed that.
— The nature of the book is frightening that it led a recent reviewer from L’Express in France to write, “If Osama bin Laden did not exist, Vladimir Bartol would have invented him.”

_ _ _

While there are many myths surrounding the Order of the Assassins who inspired terror from 1090 to 1275, it is agreed among historians that no enemy of theirs ever managed to evade their daggers. The fanaticism of their followers readily willing to die for their cause became legendary. They felled viziers, emirs, and caliphs, shaped the entire political landscape in the region according to their conceits, and held the reins of power for almost two hundred years. Their most mighty fortress stood in Iran, the “Eagle’s Nest,” the impregnable Alamut. 

_ _ _

Engrossing, tragic, and rife with philosophy, Bartol also plays on the myths, but this novel is essentially a chilling warning against charismatic leaders who test the limits of human blindness, against ideologies that have the ability to manipulate minds and emotions and subsequently annihilate logical thought. 

“…𝘪𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘶𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘯𝘦𝘨𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘬 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘴, 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘦𝘹𝘢𝘭𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘯 𝘶𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘵𝘩.”

It is both unsettling and incredible how a novel set in the 11th century, written in 1938, reads like a warning written specifically for our generation.

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