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Philip’s People

Anna DellaSubin, 8 May 2014

... Don’t​ talk about God – be it! Find the place, the formula … Ah, Larry, it isn’t that life is so short, it’s that it’s everlasting!’ Henry Miller wrote to Lawrence Durrell in 1959. The formula, if one were to look to history for clues, seems fairly simple. Be white, male, fairly imposing in stature, and in possession of a large ship and obedient crew ...

If the hare sees the sea

Anna DellaSubin: Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, 30 November 2017

The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition 
by Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, translated by Elias Muhanna.
Penguin, 352 pp., £11.99, October 2016, 978 0 14 310748 4
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... I mounted​ the stallion of reading,’ Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri wrote, recalling the moment, around the year 1316, when he quit his job. He had been a financial clerk in the Mamluk Empire, employed by the Sultan al-Nasir to manage the royal properties and handle all species of paperwork. He knew how to balance the accounts and calculate profits, ‘and in this respect I was as brilliant as a fire on a hilltop ...

It has burned my heart

Anna DellaSubin: Lives of Muhammad, 22 October 2015

The Lives of Muhammad 
by Kecia Ali.
Harvard, 342 pp., £22.95, October 2014, 978 0 674 05060 0
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... What do​ the fish call Muhammad? One of his earliest disciples said that different creatures called him by different names. He was known as Abd al-Quddus under the sea and Abd al-Ghaffar among the birds, Abd al-Mughis in the insect kingdom and Abd al-Rahim to the jinn.‘His name is Ahmad,’ Jesus said of the one who would come after him, according to the Quran ...

In His White Uniform

Rosemary Hill: Accidental Gods, 10 February 2022

Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine 
by Anna DellaSubin.
Granta, 462 pp., £20, January, 978 1 78378 501 8
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... mercy of one’s worshippers, who tend to be demanding, dictatorial and impossible to shake off. Anna DellaSubin’s Accidental Gods is a philosophical and historical exploration of the phenomenon from Jesus Christ to Prince Philip and Narendra Modi, written with a poise and lucidity that allow full play to the comic ...

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