Tariq Ali

This article is from 2009.

Tariq Ali

Merging a passion for politics with love of literature

Protocols of the Elders of Sodom was published recently, and reads like a ‘best of’ of Tariq Ali’s musings on a few giants of world literature. Taken from articles and essays written over the past 30 years for Time Out and The Guardian among others, the historian, filmmaker and novelist extends his usual non-mincer-of-words approach to writers including Tolstoy, Proust, Cervantes and Solzhenitsyn. And just because Salman Rushdie spent years under police surveillance after that fatwa was put on his head, that doesn’t exclude him from a dressing down from Ali. ‘Even Salman Rushdie must realise that The Ground Beneath Her Feet is an excremental work,’ comments Ali who is, incidentally, otherwise quite a big Rushdie fan.

Fusing his love of politics with his passion for literature, and still leaving room for controversy on world religions too, Ali’s fastidiously researched essays make for a stodgy, wide-reaching, warm and provocative read. His Festival appearance will allow him to discuss topics touched on in the book, which include Pakistani government corruption, writers of the Raj (Rudyard Kipling is a favourite of Ali’s) and his own experiences as a ‘red diaper baby’ (which, he explains, is a US term for a child raised in a Communist household in a non-Communist country.)

There are unexpected links too; in his notes on Jean-Paul Sartre, Ali casually drops in the fact that Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir sent a telegram of protest when he was placed under country arrest by the Pakistani government during the 1970s. With true stories like that, who needs fiction?

6 Aug, 3pm, £9 (£7).

Tariq Ali

LITERATURE AND CULTURE As a critic, Tariq Ali is never less than scintillating and challenging. In The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom he tackles the work of literary giants including Tolstoy, Proust, Cervantes, Joyce and Solzhenitsyn. These thought-provoking essays span four decades and invite us to share with him…