For many children of the sixties a'journey to the East'was a necessary rite of passage. In an extraordinary memoir Robert Irwin contrasts the contexts of England - the new culture and the hippy trail - with those of Algeria - bombs and guns and mysticism.
In the summer of 1964, while a military coup was taking place and tanks were rolling through the streets of Algiers, Robert Irwin set off for Algeria in search of Sufi enlightenment. There he entered a world of marvels and ecstasy, converted to Islam and received an initiation as afaqir. He learnt the rituals of Islam in North Africa and he studied Arabic in London. He also pursued more esoteric topics under a holy fool possessed of telepathic powers. A series of meditations on the nature of mystical experience run through this memoir. But political violence, torture, rock music, drugs, nightmares, Oxbridge intellectuals and first love and its loss are all part of this strange story from the 1960s.
Robert Irwin is one of the best known writers on the history and culture of the Islamic world (The Arabian Nights: A Companion;The Alhambraand most recentlyFor Lust of Knowing: the Orientalists and their Enemies). He is also an acclaimed novelist (Arabian Nightmare) and is Middle East editor ofThe Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London.
'A fascinating journey into the spirit and adventure of the sixties by someone who was there, and who, luckily for us, remembered every extraordinary thing.', Esther Freud
'The richness of texture and tone...coupled with the unusual nature of the story...makeMemoirs of a Dervishcompelling, fascinating and enriching.', Anthony Sattin, Spectator
'This is a heady, insightful and melancholy trip.', Ali Catterall, Word
'What emerges here is a tale as fluid and as finally mysterious as the life it recounts...Here, at last, Irwin may have found a truly perennial philosophy.', John Gray, New Statesman
'Packed with extraordinary characters and incidents as well as (this being the sixties) a generous helping of drugs, sex and rock'n'roll.', London Review Bookshop
'Irwin's witty, casually erudite tribute to his clever, naïve youth shows that there are no shortcuts to wisdom. But if often comes with age.', Steve Jelbert, Independent on Sunday
'Memoirs of a Dervish- charged with life, humanity and humour - opens one's eyes to possibilities, which was what the 1960s vibe was about, after all.', Financial Times
'I could not put downMemoirs of a Dervishuntil I had read it twice over. This is a brilliant, free-ranging, mind-enhancing, life-cautioning book. Beware.', Barnaby Rogerson, The Independent
'Robert Irwin's memoir is a fabulously entertaining tale.', The Metro
'Irwin brilliantly conjures up the mood of the late Sixties, with its blind innocence, fanciful enthusiasms and blissful music...For the reader, the journey - and the fall - is an illuminating and immensely engrossing one.', Mick Brown, Literary Review
'An extraordinary book.', Conde Nast Traveller