The Talisman, The Book of Saladin and Reluctant Orientalism
Keywords:The Talisman, The Book of Saladin, Saladin, Eurocentrism, Reluctant Orientalism
The renowned writer of historical novels Walter Scott’s representations of historical figures reach beyond his country of birth. As a man of literature, he imagines the beyond. The Talisman is a product of such excess, but it is not the first in Europe depicting the leader of the Ayyubids Saladin who conquered Jerusalem and settled within the consciousness of the West as a result. Far before romantic orientalism during the nineteenth century, Renaissance was already interested in oriental exoticism. Saladin appeared in Dante’s Inferno, Boccaccio’s Decameron, and Voltaire’s Zaire in varying but positive forms. Scott continued this tradition and created a fictional Saladin who ‘was’ an oriental despot with European virtues. Even though Tariq Ali penned The Book of Saladin one hundred and seventy-three years later, Saladin has always remained a popular fictional figure. He alternates the modernist and orientalist narrations of the East with postcolonial and postmodernist literary techniques, but he falls into the same modernist trap Scott had fallen into while creating an unusual Eastern character for European readers. Their common reluctant orientalism links these two narrations of Saladin inextricably as Eurocentrism haunts their non-Eurocentric depictions ironically. By using reluctant orientalism as a term for the first time and comparing Scott and Ali contrary to the accustomed analyses, this study does more than filling a positivist lacuna. It delays the Absolute meanings of Scott and Ali.
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