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Reviews of The Book of Strangers: Medieval Arabic Graffiti on the Theme of Nostalgia

“This is an excellent work, bringing to life a little-known facet of medieval Arab literature.”
— MESA Bulletin

“There are more entertaining tidbits, such as the report of a frightening treasure hunt in a deserted castle. … A tragic prose inscription, carved with a knife by a shipwrecked sailor on a ship’s rudder, was once found near inland Najaf, in Iraq; it was considered conclusive proof of the sea once having covered much of Iraq. There is an amusing story of the poet Abu’l-Hindi and his drunken companions who only met properly after ten days, having been intoxicated alternately; the story is quoted because the poet described the event in a poem written on the wall of an inn. Very readable, too, is the remarkably free behavior of a Christian girl towards the Caliph al-Mutawakkil who visits a monastery. … Patricia Crone and Shmuel Moreh, ideally matched as historian and literary historian … have given us an exemplary translation … readable and well documented.”
— The Times Literary Supplement

“Translated from tenth-century Arabic, this book is a collection of verse-graffiti from Iraqi caves and folklore as well as a discussion of its background and authenticity. The book was supposedly brought together by a lonely Iraqi who surrounded himself with nostalgic verse in order to assuage his own loneliness. The result is a combination of emotion and great literature that speaks not only to the sentiments of the time, but also the manner in which people chose to express themselves. This book is therefore significant both as an historical document and as a collection of beautiful verse, and serves as a symbol of tenth-century Arab culture.”
— The Middle East Journal