Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tariq Ali Profiled in the Guardian

On The Notes Taken, our references to Tariq Ali have discussed his critique of American foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and, more recently, his book The Idea of Communism. I've read several of his more recent books on politics (and Joshua has a hard to find title in which Ali praises Boris Yeltsin...), but none of his fiction. The reason is simple: I have been interested in his Islamic Quintet, but as a completist kind of reader, reading one volume requires reading all five, which is a serious time commitment when I've got so many other projects going. I had been mulling all this over while I wrote the review of The Idea of Communism, which is why I found the Guardian's recent profile of Ali's 'life in writing' interesting. James Campbell gives an overview of Ali's Islamic Quintet on the occasion of the publication of the final volume, the Night of the Golden Butterfly. A few highlights:
[Ali claims] "the first criticism of Obama in a work of fiction. It just came to me at the time the drone attacks were taking place against Pakistan. I thought: I want to be the first." His gleeful laugh belies a long opposition to American foreign policy, which has not been mitigated by the election of a [...] hope-and-change president.
It is also mentioned that the Rolling Stone's wrote "Street Fighting Man" for Ali, who in turn titled his autobiography Street Fighting Years. I thought a few of my friends would like this:
In Street Fighting Years, Ali describes how he asked Jagger to write out the words of "Street Fighting Man", to be printed in facsimile in the Black Dwarf. "He agreed immediately. We photographed the sheet of paper and I threw the original into the wastepaper basket. No one in the office thought this was sacrilegious. The cult of the individual is always a substitute for collective action."
However, there's no mention of Ali's The Idea of Communism, or the series "What was Communism?" We're currently planning on reviewing the other three volumes in the series: Piero Gleijeses's The Cuban Drumbeat, Boris Kagarlitsky's Back in the USSR, and Slavenka Drakulic's Two Underdogs and a Cat: Three Reflections on Communism.

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