Stone Woman, The
by Tariq Ali
The Ottoman Empire, known as the “sick man of Europe” in the 19th century, continues its slow, steady decline in the summer of 1899 as elderly Iskander Pasha (a descendant of a sultan’s favorite courtier) and his well-born family gather at their seaside palace outside Istanbul. Ali, a well-known leftist activist in Britain, explores the complexities of the Ottoman mentality in his fifth outing, a colorful, sensual drama of families, sexual intrigue and rebellion. As the novel begins, Iskander suffers a stroke and loses his power of speech. Various members of the family tell their stories, interwoven with chapters transcribing confessions made to the “stone woman,” a rock formation on the estate.