Empire's Son, Empire's Orphan: The Fantastical Lives of Ikbal and Idries Shah (Kobo eBook)

Empire's Son, Empire's Orphan: The Fantastical Lives of Ikbal and Idries Shah By Nile Green Cover Image
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A rollicking story of two literary fabulists who revealed the West’s obsession with a fabricated, exotic East.

In the highbrow literary circles of the mid-twentieth century, a father and son spread seductive accounts of a mystical Middle East. Claiming to come from Afghanistan, Ikbal and Idries Shah parlayed their assumed identities into careers full of drama and celebrity, writing dozens of books that influenced the political and cultural elite. Pitching themselves as the authentic voice of the Muslim world, they penned picaresque travelogues and exotic potboilers alongside weighty tomes on Islam and politics. Above all, father and son told Western readers what they wanted to hear: audacious yarns of eastern adventure and harmless Sufi mystics—myths that, as the century wore on and the Taliban seized power, became increasingly detached from reality.

Empire’s Son, Empire’s Orphan follows the Shahs from their origins in colonial India to literary London, wartime Oxford, and counterculture California via the Levant, the League of Nations, and Latin America. Nile Green unravels the conspiracies and pseudonyms, fantastical pasts and self-aggrandizing anecdotes, high stakes and bold schemes that for nearly a century painted the defining portrait of Afghanistan. Ikbal and Idries convinced poets, spies, orientalists, diplomats, occultists, hippies, and even a prime minister that they held the key to understanding the Islamic world. From George Orwell directing Muslim propaganda to Robert Graves translating a fake manuscript of Omar Khayyam and Doris Lessing supporting jihad, Green tells the fascinating tale of how the book world was beguiled by the dream of an Afghan Shangri-La that never existed.

Gambling with the currency of cultural authenticity, Ikbal and Idries became master players of the great game of empire and its aftermath. Part detective story, part intellectual folly, Empire’s Son, Empire’s Orphan reveals the divergence between representation and reality, between what we want to believe and the more complex truth.

Product Details
ISBN-13: 9781324002420
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: July 1st, 2024