The Alhambra, the'red fort'on its rocky hill above Granada, with its fountained courts and gardens, and intricate decoration, has long been a byword for exotic and melancholy beauty. In a stimulating new book in the'Wonders of the World'series Robert Irwin, Arabist and novelist, examines its engrossing and often mysterious history. Built by a bloody and threatened dynasty of Muslim Spain, it was preserved as a monument to the triumph of Christianity. Much of what we see is the invention of later generations. Its highly sophisticated decoration is not just random but full of hidden meaning. Even its purpose - palace or theological college - is not always clear. Its influence on art, and on literature, orientalist painting and Granada cinemas, Washington Irving and Borges, has been significant. Robert Irwin enables us to understand that history fully. The Wonders of the World is a series of books that focuses on some of the world's most famous sites or monuments. Their names will be familiar to almost everyone: they have achieved iconic stature and are loaded with a fair amount of mythological baggage. These monuments have been the subject of many books over the centuries, but our aim, through the skill and stature of the writers, is to get something much more enlightening, stimulating, even controversial, than straightforward histories or guides.
Robert Irwin is a novelist, publisher, reviewer, Arabist and historian. He was formerly a lecturer in the Department of Mediaeval History in the University of St Andrews and he is currently a Senior Research Associate of the History Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. He has published seventeen books, of which six are novels. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.Memoirs of a Dervishis published by Profile in 2011.
'This highly readable study provides both a welcome demystification and a fascinating reinterpretation', The Scotsman
'For those who know his work, it will confirm his genius and to others it will act as an excellent introduction', Observer
'Fascinating', Malise Ruthven, Sunday Times
'A lively, yet clear-headed introduction encouraging a more thoughtful and critical approach to the monument', Literary Review
'Irwin's book is both a perfect introduction to the place and a first-rate account of its history', Guardian
'He brings the majestic ruins to life'', Newsweek
'This book captures and conveys the mysterious attractions of the Alhambra', Doris Lessing
'It is ... greatly to Robert Irwin's credit that he has written a book on the subject that is sensible, scholarly, astringent and witty. It is a fine addition to what promises to be an outstanding series on the world's great monuments.', Sunday Telegraph
'Entrancing ... an excellent guide, full of fascinating characters and juicy anecdotes ... Having been to the Alhambra many times, after reading this wonderful book I wished to go back - and see it for the first time.', Susha Guppy, Independent