Most of the historical fictions and translated books are badly written but this one is a total exception. This book is very well written. Also I discovered only later that the book was written in French and was translated to English by Russel Harris.
The book covers interesting phases in Persian history. The first half trails the life of Omar Khayyam in 11th century Central Asia, his 9 year affair with court poetess Jahan, his success as a philosopher, astronomer, mathematician etc. The story also features – Nizam ul Mulk, the Muslim Machiavelli who is still remembered for his brilliant innovations in government and Hassan Sabbah, the founder of the Order of the Assassins and the castle at Alamut.
The second half trails the life of an American scholar who after getting obsessed with the Samarkand manuscript travels to Iran in 1896, and lives through the Persian revolution post Shah’s assassination and the Persian struggle to establish democracy, amidst extreme foreign interference. The story culminates when the Samarkand manuscript sinks with the Titanic in 1912, lost to the world forever.
All I can say is that I had picked up the book for Samarkand before my trip to Uzbekistan but the book has piqued my interest in Persia (Iran) so much that I have bought 2 books: Understanding Iran by William R.Polk and Rubaiyat by Khayyam, published in 1942 (oldest I could find and had to get it shipped from US.
“Time … has two dimensions, its length is measured by the rhythm of the sun but its depth by the rhythm of passion.” (Pg 26)
“I am not poor for my desires are simple.” (Pg 27)