Altai by Wu Ming

Altai

Wu Ming

An historical adventure and sprawling epic telling of the real conflicts between 16C Mediterranean Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities, told through the eyes of a fictional hero. Written by a renowned Italian writing collective I found this to be initially quite hard to get into and never fully got attached or invested in the stories or characters. An interesting, wide-reaching and very descriptive read but overall somewhat detached.


Extract

I'm getting to know you, capital of the empire. I'm adapting myself to the way you punctuate your time. ... I'm getting to know you Byzantium, New Rome, Rūmiyya al-Kubrā, Qostantiniyye, Istanbul, city of damp, heavy air. On mornings when the sky is clear, I dream of rising into the wind and flying, seeing you from above, but the wind is heavy, thick with smells from the tanning works of Yedikule, the glue factories, the guts being turned into ropes. Every city has a background smell: Venice is mold and brackishness; Salonika reeks of piss; Constantinople breathes wet earth and weariness and dreams.

Parallels
  • Q by Luther Blissett
  • Baudolino by Umberto Eco
  • The Siege by Ismail Kadare

Books with similar mood

Cecilia's Vision

T. J. Armstrong

Unaccustomed Earth

Jhumpa Lahiri

Electric

Chad Taylor

Sea Lovers

Valerie Martin

A Poet and Bin-Laden

Hamid Ismailov

Professor Andersen's Night

Dag Solstad

The Incendiary's Trail

James McCreet

Doing the Heart Good

Neil Bissoondath

Red Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson

Panorama

Dušan Šarotar

The Thing Itself

Adam Roberts

The Sitar

Rebecca Idris

Our Horses in Egypt

Rosalind Belben

Imago

Eva-Marie Liffner

The Internationals

Sarah May

The Village of Widows

Ravi Shankar Etteth

Soldiers of Salamis

Javier Cercas

Ice Road

Gillian Slovo

Soul Mountain

Gao Xingjian

Nothing But Grass

Will Cohu

Beatlebone

Kevin Barry

The Buried Giant

Kazuo Ishiguro

Kapow!

Adam Thirlwell

Villa Pacifica

Kapka Kassabova

The Illumination

Kevin Brockmeier

British Summertime

Paul Cornell

The Lone Woman

Bernardo Atxaga

The Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver

Island

Jane Rogers

Flood of Fire

Amitav Ghosh

For Today I am a Boy

Kim Fu

The Spider King's Daughter

Chibundu Onuzo

Heartland

Anthony Cartwright

Pynter Bender

Jacob Ross

Crusaders

Richard T Kelly

The Not Knowing

Cathi Unsworth

Ladies Coupe

Anita Nair

The Music in My Head

Mark Hudson

The Brothers

Asko Sahlberg

2084: The End of the World

Boualem Sansal

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord

Kim Leine

The Jump Artist

Austin Ratner

The Shining Girls

Lauren Beukes

The Cloud Messenger

Aamer Hussein

River of Shadows

Valerio Varesi

The Falafel King is Dead

Sara Shilo

Bumping

Tony Bianchi

Drivetime

James Meek

The Year of the Woman

Jonathan Gash