Sons of the People: The Mamluk Trilogy
This monumental family saga offers a vivid portrait of Egypt’s Mamluk period, one that is at both sweeping in scope and intimate in detail. Set in medieval Cairo, the novel centres on three generations of Egyptians, foreign-born Mamluks, and their descendants as their trials and victories mirror those of their turbulent country. The first volume introduces us to Zaynab, the daughter of a middle-class merchant in Cairo who catches the eye of and soon marries the powerful Mamluk amir Muhammad. Their oldest son becomes an architect and embarks upon the monumental task of building a grand mosque with Sultan Hasan as a symbol of the Mamluks rise to power. In the second volume The Judge of Qus, Bassiouney tells the story of Amr ibn Ahmad ibn Abd al-Karim, a wise and compassionate judge of Islamic law whose refusal to bend to the demands of the Mamluk rulers ultimately leads to Amrs downfall. The final volume, Events of Nights, weaves together testimonies from three characters, each with narrow and differing perspectives on the novel’s events, subtly calling the readers attention to the unstable nature of historical fiction.
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Set against a historical backdrop, Sons of the People: The Mamluk Trilogy sheds light on the last days of the Mamluk dynasty before its downfall. The Mamluks were defeated by the Ottoman troops in 1517 at the battle of Marj Dabiq, after which Tuman Bay was beheaded. The incidents of the trilogy start with the story behind the construction of the mosque of Sultan Hassan, whose architect is the offspring of a Mamluk prince who married an Egyptian girl, Zineb, under duress. Eventually, the mosque appears to be the dominant motif in the trilogy, which creates a well-wrought narrative, helping Bassiouney to depict a vivid picture of the social, political and economic life in Egypt under the rule of the Mamluks; a period that has always raised very controversial questions concerning its cultural and political inheritance. With the second story, the narrative shifts to different times where the very mosque becomes a bloodbath of the fighting Mamluks. In the final one, the conquering army ravishes the riches of mosque.Reem Bassiouney is a distinguished Egyptian novelist. She also received the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature.
– Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt