The November 20 issue of the Times Literary Supplement ran not one, but two, glowing reviews of LAL titles, making a great conclusion to 2015 for our series. First off, Hugh Kennedy of SOAS described Two Arabic Travel Books as “accounts… full of fascination and wonder,” and praised editor-translators Mackintosh-Smith and Montgomery for “situating the works in a wider, more global context” for contemporary readers. Accounts of China and India, by Abū Zayd al-Sīrāfī, offers a view of an open and tolerant world of commerce traveled by Muslim merchants (“real-life Sindbads if you will”), while Mission to the Volga, by Ibn Faḍlān, presents the earliest first-hand travelogue from the Muslim world famous for its first-ever ethnographic account of Viking societies in southern Russia as witnessed by Ibn Faḍlān.
And, in the same issue, Patricia Storace declares that Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq’s Leg over Leg (now available in two English-only paperback volumes) “will eventually be acknowledged as one of the most important translations of the twenty-first century.” She praises editor-translator “Humphrey Davies’ virtuosic work” for giving English readers access to “one of the most profoundly humanist voices in literature.” At the same time, she credits the book with an “invincible feminism,” expressed through the character of the Fariyaqiyyah, “one of the of the most vivid, daring and expansive female characters in literature.”
—Chip Rossetti, Managing Editor