The Best Book in Slovenian Literature,”Alamut”(1938),by Vladimir Bartol,is about the Assasins,the Second Terrorist Group in Islam’s History
Who was Vladimir Bartol (1903-1967)
Bartol was a Slovene born in Trieste in 1903,in a city where the great majority were and still are Italian.The city and region were then part of the Austrian Empire.During World War II he joined Slovene partisans and actively participated in the resistance movement.
His 1938 novel “Alamut”,the best book in Slovenian, has been interpreted as an allegory of the TIGR,a Slovene group created to fight against the Italian repression of the Slovene minority in Italy which lasted from 1920-1947.
The persecution of the Slovenes in Italy
After WW I Italy annexed a part of the Austrian empire that had 1 million people of which 50% were Slovene and only 43% Italian.The capital was Trieste.Beginning in 1922 when Mussolini came to power there was a forced Italianization of the Slovenes.
All Slovene cultural associations were forbidden.Even in areas where the population was exclusively Slovene, the use of Slovene in public places, including churches, was forbidden.In 1926 the Italian government announced the Italianization of Slovene names.In response to forced Italianization, the militant anti-fascist organization TIGR was formed in 1927. By the mid 1930s, 70,000 Slovenes had left, mostly to Slovenia.then part of Yugoslavia.
About the novel “Alamut”(Eagle’s Nest)
1.Bartol learned about the history of the assasins.You can read about them here:
“The Assasins,the Second Terrorist Group in Muslim History”
2.Bartol heard of the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, perpetrated by Croatian and Bulgarian radical nationalists, supposedly with the help of Mussolini,the dictator of Italy. When it was published, the novel was sarcastically dedicated to Benito Mussolini.
3.The maxim of the novel is the famous phrase “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”.
Dostoevsky said something similar
In his novel of Dostoevski “The Brothers Karamazov”(1880) one of the brothers is an atheist and his ideas are summed up in the famous phrase of the novel:
“If God is not,then all is permitted”.
Here are 2 articles on Dostoevski and Jesus
They are in French and can be translated with Google Translate:
“Article XXVI de Jesus dans la Litterature:Jesus dans “Les Freres Karamazov”,Chef d’Oeuvre de Dostoievski,l’un des Meilleurs Romanciers au Monde”
“L’Accusation contre Jesus par le Grand Inquisiteur Espagnol au 16e Siecle dans le Conte de Dostoievski(recit qui est dans son Chef d’Oeuvre “Les Freres Karamazov”(1880))”
The story of the novel “Alamut”
Sabbah creates his terrorist organization
1.It is 11th century Persia, in the fortress of Alamut, where self-proclaimed prophet Hassan-i-Sabbah is planning to rule the region with a handful of elite fighters.
2.Sabbah creates a virtual paradise at Alamut, filled with beautiful women, lush gardens, wine and hashish,a potent drug.And he convinces his young fighters that they can reach paradise if they follow his commands.
3.He also creates fear among the ruling class by creating disciples willing to kill, and be killed, in order to achieve paradise. Sabbah wanted to see how far he could manipulate religious devotion for his own political gain through appealing to what he called the stupidity and gullibility of people and their passion for pleasure and selfish desires.
The idea of gaining instant access to paradise,and having beautiful women there, by killing and dying for Allah is in the Koran
“The Religious Motivation for Muslim Suicide Bombers”
About a girl and a warrior
The novel shows how Sabbah unveils his plan to his inner circle, and to two of his young followers:
1.The beautiful slave girl Halima, who has come to Alamut to join Sabbah’s paradise on earth.
2.And young Ibn Tahir, Sabbah’s most gifted fighter.
But with time Halima and Ibn Tahir become disillusioned with Sabbah,
Sabbah and his disciples
Ibn Tahir,following his family’s wish,decides to join the Alamut garrison. There, he is appointed to the group of the most valiant soldiers,who are expected to obey orders without any question, death not an obstacle. During their demanding training, they come to be convinced that they will go to heaven immediately after their death if they die in the line of duty. Hassan managed to achieve such level of obedience by deception.
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,the beautiful women promised to all Muslim men,even if they are married.
His disciples believe that Allah has given Sabbah the power to send anybody into paradise for a certain period.
A demonstration shown to the enemies of Hassan-i-Sabbah
The Seljuks,a Turkic group,which then ruled Iran,of which Alamut was a part, besiege the fortress. Some of the soldiers are captured and Sabbah decides to demonstrate his power to them. He orders a pair of his followers (Yusuf and Suleiman) to kill themselves:
1.Suleiman by stabbing himself.
2.Yusuf by jumping from a tower.
They do it with a smile on their face, thinking that they will soon be in heaven.
Ibn Tahir is ordered to kill the Grand Vizier
Later Sabbah orders Ibn Tahir to kill the grand vizier of the Seljuk sultan, Nizam al-Mulk. Sabbah wants to take vengeance for al-Mulk’s treachery against him. Ibn Tahir stabs the vizier, but, before he passes away, the vizier reveals the truth of Sabbah’s deceptions to his murderer. Ibn Tahir decides to return to Alamut and kill Sabbah. When he returns, Sabbah receives him and reveals him his true belief,in the phrase that has made the book famous:
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted”.
The end of the novel
Ibn Tahir leaves and travels around the world. Another kills the Seljuk Sultan and the Seljuk empire dissolves.