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Memoirs of a Dervish

Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: Biography & Memoir

Memoirs of a Dervish

Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties

Robert Irwin

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.

eBook (ePUB/MOBI)?
9781847654045 (14 Apr 2011)

About the book

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 a faqir. 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.

About the author

Robert Irwin is one of the best known writers on the history and culture of the Islamic world (The Arabian Nights: A Companion; The Alhambra and most recently For Lust of Knowing: the Orientalists and their Enemies). He is also an acclaimed novelist (Arabian Nightmare) and is Middle East editor of The 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...make Memoirs of a Dervish compelling, 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

Additional Information

Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: Biography & Memoir

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