Ali, Tariq 1943-

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Ali, Tariq 1943-


Born October 21, 1943, in Lahore, India (now Pakistan); son of Mazhar Ali Khan (a landowner) and Tahira Hyat. Education: Punjab University, B.A. (with honors), 1963; also attended Oxford University.


Home—London, England. Office—New Left Review, 6 Meard St., London W1F 0EG, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and political activist; leading member of Fourth International; Verso Books, London, England, editor. Fellow, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands.



(Compiler) The Thoughts of Chairman Harold, with illustrations by Ralph Steadman, Gnome Press (London, England), 1967.

(Editor) The New Revolutionaries: A Handbook of the International Radical Left, Morrow (New York, NY), 1969, published in England as New Revolutionaries: Left Opposition, Owen (London, England), 1969.

Pakistan: Military Rule or People's Power?, Morrow (New York, NY), 1970.

The Coming British Revolution, J. Cape (London, England), 1972.

(With Gerry Hedley) Chile: Lessons of the Coup: Which Way to Workers' Power?, International Marxist Group (London, England), 1974.

1968 and After: Inside the Revolution, Blond & Briggs (London, England), 1978.

Trotsky for Beginners, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1980.

Can Pakistan Survive?, Penguin (New York, NY), 1983.

(Editor) What Is Stalinism?, Penguin (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor) The Stalinist Legacy: Its Impact on Twentieth-Century World Politics, Penguin (New York, NY), 1984.

An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family, Putnam (New York, NY), 1985, revised edition published as The Nehrus and the Gandhis: an Indian Dynasty, Picador (London, England), 2005.

Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties, Collins (London, England), 1987, Verso (New York, NY), 2005.

Revolution from Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going?, Hutchinson (London, England), 1988.

(With Howard Brenton) Moscow Gold, Nick Hern (London, England), 1990.

Redemption (novel), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1990.

Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (novel), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1992, Verso (New York, NY), 1993.

(Contributor) 21: 21 Picador Authors Celebrate 21 Years of International Writing, Picador (London, England), 1993.

(With Susan Watkins) 1968—Marching in the Streets, Free Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Howard Brenton) Ugly Rumours, Nick Hern (London England), 1998.

Fear of Mirrors (novel), Dufour Editions (Chester Springs, PA), 1998.

The Book of Saladin (novel), Verso (London, England), 1999.

The Stone Woman (novel), Verso (London, England), 2000.

(Editor) Masters of the Universe? NATO's Balkan Crusade, Verso (London, England), 2000.

The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Verso (London, England), 2002.

The Illustrious Corpse (play), Oberon (London, England), 2003.

Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq, Verso (New York, NY), 2003.

Rough Music: Blair/Bombs/Baghdad/London/Terror/, Verso (New York, NY), 2005.

(With David Barsamian) Speaking of Empire and Resistance: Conversations with Tariq Ali, New Press (New York, NY), 2005.

A Sultan in Palermo (novel), Verso (New York, NY), 2005.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, Verso (New York, NY), 2006.

The Leopard and the Fox, Seagull Books (London, England), 2007.

The Dictatorship of Capital: Politics and Culture in the 21st Century, Verso (New York, NY), 2008.

Author, with Howard Brenton and Andy de la Tour, of Snogging Ken ("disposable theater" play); contributor to New Left Review, Inprecor, New Statesman & Society, Monthly Review, and Red Weekly. Member of editorial board, Labour Focus on Eastern Europe and New Left Review.


Tariq Ali is well known in Great Britain as a political activist, social commentator, historian, filmmaker, and novelist. Born in what is now Pakistan, and educated in India and at Oxford University, Ali embraced leftist politics as a young man. In the late 1960s he was an active radical in London, protesting his country's involvement in the Vietnam War as well as its policies toward the Soviet Union and other socialist nations. More recently he has written books and commentary about the ongoing political struggles in India and Pakistan, while continuing his sometimes-scathing criticism of the British government and what he sees as United States imperialism throughout the world, but especially in the Middle East.

Ali's nonfiction reflects the broad range of his interests. He has published first-hand accounts of life in the Soviet Union and in post-Soviet Russia, memoirs and studies of the student movement in the 1960s, simple explanatory texts on Stalinism and Trotskyism, and modern political histories of India and the Balkan crisis. In a Monthly Review piece on Ali's Revolution from Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going?, Daniel Singer noted that the author "manages to pass on to the reader the excitement of a country where serious periodicals sell like hot cakes, where books, films, plays are political events, where people simultaneously discover their past and the art of political debate." Singer added that Revolution from Above "deserves to be read by all Western leftists interested in the fate of the Soviet Union. … Whether one agrees with [Ali] or not, his chapters raise all the issues the left must tackle: the resistance of bureaucracy, market and planning in a single state, the relevance of memory, the power to be granted to the Soviets, and, finally, Russians' relations with the outside world. Besides, the book is topical despite the furious pace of events."

The 1990s ushered in a new phase in Ali's writing career. He began to publish fiction that also illustrates his views of the world as a leftist and a historian. Four of his novels, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, The Book of Saladin, The Stone Woman, and A Sultan in Palermo address various aspects of Muslim empire-building in different historical eras. Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree centers on the fall of Islam in Spain. The Book of Saladin is a fictitious memoir dictated by the great ruler Salah-al-Din, who wrested Jerusalem from Christian control in the twelfth century. This work seeks to dismiss the European stereotype of Saladin as a ruthless and godless conqueror; indeed, World Literature Today critic Bruce King emphasized the novel's postcolonial sensibilities, observing that the book is "shaped by modern sensibilities as well as facts" that depict European Crusaders in a distinctly negative light while recounting the story with all the "excitement of an old Hollywood epic." A Kirkus Reviews correspondent declared that, in The Book of Saladin, "one is carried along by the sheer gallop of the storytelling and dead-on sense of time and place." The Stone Woman moves ahead to the end of the nineteenth century and views the decline of the Ottoman Empire through the eyes of one jaded family. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews deemed the novel "a richly woven historical tapestry." James Hopkin, in New Statesman, praised the "grace and guile" with which Ali constructs the narrative, and commended the novel as "enchanting" and "captivating."

Set in twelfth-century Sicily, A Sultan in Palermo examines the final months in the reign of the Sultan Rujari, or King Roger, last in the line of a Norman family which had taken power from the Muslim rulers of Sicily a century earlier. The bishops are angry with Roger for surrounding himself by concubines, eunuchs, and Muslim intellectuals, and long for his death so that they can regain power. Told through the eyes of the twelfth-century celebrated geographer, Muhammad al-Idrisi, the novel "explores the struggles that face people living under occupation," as Liz Winer noted in a Tikkun review. Winer went on to comment, "Ali asks important questions like: when is rebellion not only justified but wise, and how does one survive without collaborating?" Reviewing the same novel in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Sara Powell had further praise for Ali's fiction, noting that his "works resemble a rich tapestry in which continuous threads of various hues—religion, love, politics—reflect the human condition." Originally conceived as a series of four novels dealing with Muslim history, Ali changed the "Islam Quartet" to the "Islam Quintet" after the events of September 11, 2001. Powell concluded: "Will the eagerly awaited fifth volume be set in contemporary times? This reader can't wait to find out."

Ali's other novels include Redemption, a comic account of political radicals in Eastern Europe attempting to cope with social and economic changes during the 1990s, and Fear of Mirrors, a candid portrayal of life in Germany since the nation's reunification. A Publishers Weekly contributor considered Redemption a "hilarious trip down memory lane" for readers familiar with the radical Left, but added that Ali makes the book surprisingly moving as well as satirical. Of Fear of Mirrors, Booklist correspondent David Cline wrote that the work "reveals a keen mind and strong political insight." A Publishers Weekly reviewer likewise considered the book "valuable … especially for those interested in the current thinking of the European [L]eft."

In the new millennium, Ali has continued to offer critiques of the British government and of other Western powers, primarily the United States. Fueled by the events of 9/11, Ali changed the direction of a book he was already at work on, publishing in 2002 The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, a scathing indictment of fundamentalism in both Islam and the Christian right as well as in U.S. imperialism. Ali explores events prior to September 11, 2001, and deals with the political history of Islam, its founding myths, its origins, its culture, its riches, and its divisions. At the same time, he also takes to task the Western powers for their hegemonic policies vis-a-vis Islamic states in the last hundred years. According to Abigail B. Bakan, writing in Labour/Le Travail, "the bulk of the manuscript traces the various periods of collusion and conflict between U.S. imperialism and the dominant classes, or sections of classes, from Jerusalem to Pakistan, from Pakistan to Kashmir, from Afghanistan to India."

In his 2003 title, Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq, Ali again focuses on what he sees as wrong-minded and failed U.S. policies in the Middle East, this time critiquing the Second Iraq War from a leftist perspective. Similarly, in Rough Music: Blair/Bombs/ Baghdad/London/Terror/, Ali calls for a rethinking of Britain's foreign policy. In particular, Ali postulates that the pro-American policies of Prime Minister Tony Blair have led to further destabilization in global security. As Tom Nairn noted in Arena Magazine, Rough Music "makes many points going beyond British culture, and invites wider speculation on the world of contemporary nationalism and ideologically motivated violence."



Arena Magazine, February-March, 2006, Tom Nairn, "The New Furies," review of Rough Music: Blair/ Bombs/Baghdad/London/Terror, p. 25.

Booklist, November 15, 1998, David Cline, review of Fear of Mirrors, p. 564.

Economist, April 29, 1989, "1,001 Slights," p. 92; August 19, 2000, "A Fictional Clash of Civilisations—On the Edge," p. 76.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1998, review of Fear of Mirrors; November 1, 1998, review of The Book of Saladin, p. 1560; August 15, 2000, review of The Stone Woman, p. 1144.

Labour/Le Travail, fall, 2005, Abigail B. Bakan, "Imperialism and Its Discontents," review of The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, p. 269.

Middle East Quarterly, summer, 2004, Patrick Clawson, review of Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation of Iraq, p. 82.

Monthly Review, October, 1989, Daniel Singer, review of Revolution from Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going?, p. 61.

Nation, June 5, 1989, Boris Kagarlitsky, review of Revolution from Above, p. 765.

New Republic, May 27, 1985, Shiva Naipaul, review of An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family, p. 26.

New Statesman, January 8, 1999, Jane Jakeman, review of The Book of Saladin, p. 55; April 24, 2000, Nina Raine, interview with Tariq Ali, Howard Brenton, and Andy de la Tour, p. 43; September 11, 2000, James Hopkin, review of The Stone Woman, p. 56.

New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1985, William Borders, review of An Indian Dynasty, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, October 18, 1991, review of Redemption, p. 50; October 12, 1998, reviews of Fear of Mirrors and The Book of Saladin, p. 59; June 26, 2000, review of The Stone Woman.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2005, review of Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties.

Tikkun, July-August, 2005, Liz Winer, review of A Sultan in Palermo, p. 71.

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December, 2005, Sara Powell, review of A Sultan in Palermo, p. 70.

World Literature Today, winter, 2000, Bruce King, review of The Book of Saladin, p. 245.


British Council Online, (December 18, 2006), "Contemporary Writers: Tariq Ali."

Tariq Ali Home Page, (December 18, 2006).

University of California, Berkeley Institute of International Studies Web site, (May 8, 2003), interview with Tariq Ali.