Award-winning velist Bensalem Himmich s third vel to be translated into English is a vertigius exploration of one of Islam s most radical thinkers, the Sufi philosopher Ibn Sab in. Born in Spain, he was forced to immigrate to Africa because of his controversial views. Later expelled from Egypt, Ibn Sab in made his way to Mecca, where he spent his final years. Himmich follows the philosopher s journey, outlining an array of characters he meets along the way who usher in debates of identity and personal responsibility through their interactions and relationships with Ibn Sab in. Set against the backdrop of a politically charged thirteenth century Islamic world, Himmich s vel is a rich blend of fact and imagination that re creates the intellectual debates of the time. As the culture of prosperity and tradition was giving way to the chaos created by political and social instability, many Arabs, as Ibn Sab in does in the vel, turned inward toward a spiritual search for meaning. In his fictional portrait of Ibn Sab in, Himmich succeeds in creating a character, with his many virtues and flaws, to whom all readers can relate.
Bensalem Himmich is a novelist, philosopher, and poet. He received the 2002 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for The Polymath. Roger Allen is the Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.