From the Publisher
“This splendid book should take its rightful place on the same shelf as Chatwin’s In Patagonia. . . . [It is] rich with the poetry of antique places…[and] transports the fascinated reader smoothly into a vanishing world.”—The Washington Post Book World
“An elegant, poignant, and courageous account of a journey that pits the idealism of the past against the hatred, dispossession, and denial of the present.” —Karen Armstrong
“Dalrymple’s threnody for Eastern Christianity ranks with the great modern travel books, Robert Byron’s Road to Oxiana, Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Time of Gifts and Eric Newby’s Short Walk in the Hindu Kush.” —The Scotsman
“Any travel writer who is so good at his job as to be brilliant, applauded, loved and needed has to have an unusual list of qualities, and William Dalrymple has them all in aces. Dalrymple’s ear for conversation is as good as Alan Bennett’s. The best and most unexpected book I have read since I forget when.” —Peter Levi, Literary Review
A memorable historical journey through the twilight of Eastern Christianity in the Middle East, heartfelt and beautifully told. Dalrymple (The City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, 1994) has carved an unorthodox niche for an English travel writer: He is following in the 1,400-year-old path of an Orthodox monk. In 587, Friar John Moschos and a young student trekked across the Middle East, collecting precious relics and manuscripts from obscure monasteries, from present-day Turkey to Egypt. Dalrympleþs quest is similar; he is preserving the stories of the last generation of Orthodox Christians in the Middle East. Retracing Moschosþs steps, Dalrymple finds once glorious Christian communities on the brink of extinction. One Turkish village that had 17 Syrian Orthodox churches þnow has only one [Christian] inhabitant, its elderly priest.þ In Turkey, Armenian Christianity has been more systematically erased, with cathedrals renovated into mosques, gravestones obliterated, and any mention of the Armenian presence in Turkey censored from publications, turning their existence into a historical myth. In one town, Dalrymple interviews a superannuated survivor of the Syrian Christian resistance of 1915, when Syrians witnessed the genocide of the Armenians and knew that they were next to be deported. Today, however, the descendants of Orthodox Christians in Turkey and elsewhere are emigrating as quickly as they can. Old churches stand abandoned or are employed for other purposesþin Istanbul, for example, Dalrymple is denied entrance to a famous basilica because there is a Turkish beauty contest going on inside. Dalrymple is a talented writer, with a subtle wit, akeen eye for historical irony, and a relish for architectural detail. If his treatment of Eastern Orthodoxy is somewhat romantic, ignoring centuries of internecine conflict among various ethnic groups, it is understandable given his urgency to record the plight of this last generation of Orthodox practitioners in Muslim-dominated areas. An evensong for a dying civilization. (24 b&w and 8 color photos, not seen)
author of History of God Karen Armstrong
Elegant, poignant . . . courageous . . . pitting the idealism of the past against the hatred, dispossession, and denial of the present.
The Washington Post Book World Michael Dirda
This splid book should take its rightful place on the same shelf as Chatwin's In Patagonia. [It is] rich with the poetry of antique places and transports the fascinated reader smoothly into a vanishing world . . . There are, finally, innumerable wonderful stories in From the Holy Mountain.