2008-09 Myron and Margaret Winegarden Visiting Professor - Dr. Tariq Ali
Tariq Ali is an internationally renowned journalist, novelist, historian, film-maker, and political commentator. He was born in 1943 in Lahore, which subsequently became a part of Pakistan after the Partition of British India in 1947. He was very active in student politics but as a result of his opposition to the military dictatorship in Pakistan, was forced to leave the country for England. Ali went on to finish his studies at Oxford University in Politics and Philosophy. He was very prominent in the student movements in the 1960s and even debated diplomats such as Henry Kissinger about the war in Vietnam. After a failed attempt at a run for public office in the UK in the 1970s, and increasingly dissatisfied with left-wing political movements, he devoted all his energies to writing, film-making, and public speaking. Ali produced multiple programs under the series heading "Bandung File" for BBC’s Channel Four. In addition to collaborating on stage-plays and film screenplays with Howard Brenton, he writes regularly on literature and current events for the Guardian, The London Review of Books, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and The Financial Times. Further, he is also a member of the editorial Board of the international journal The Left Review and is Editorial Director for Verso Publishers.
Tariq Ali is perhaps best known for his novels and historical and political commentaries. His first novel, Redemption (1991), a satirical and surreal account of the infighting and cult-like dynamics within extreme left-wing groups in Europe, did not garner much public attention. His next book, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1993), was an immediate international best-seller and won him the noted Archbishop San Clemente del Instituto Rosalia de Castro Prize for the Best Foreign Language Fiction published in Spain in 1994. This was the first book in what he calls "the Islam Quintet," and it was followed by The Book of Saladin (1999), The Stone Woman (2001), and, most recently, The Sultan of Palermo (2006). The four books portray a vivid and dynamic picture of the intermingling between Christian and Islamic civilizations, the emergence of new styles of architecture, music, and the arts, and the way this shaped culture in a geographical landscape that stretches from Egypt and Turkey through Spain and Italy. The novels are ambitious and vast in historical scope and touch on everything from the Crusades to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. They also highlight how individual passions and desires, when combined with the lust for power in a context of religious politics, can have devastating consequences for entire cultures and civilizations.
Ali is also internationally well-known for his polemical and thought-provoking historical and political essays. He has written a superb social history of the 1960s, Street-Fighting Years (1991, republished in 2005), which gives the reader an in-depth look at the tumultuous era from the perspective of cities from Prague and Budapest to San Francisco and Hanoi, and gives us an up-close look at figures such as Malcolm X, Marlon Brando, and John Lennon, among others. Since the attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent war in Iraq, Ali has written two highly acclaimed and widely read books. The first one, The Clash of Fundamentalisms (2003), is a provocative and magisterial history of the Middle East and the changing dynamic of U.S. – Middle Eastern relations. It is also a profound critique of the rise of radical Islamic movements and a plea for a democratic Middle East. The second book, Bush in Babylon (2003), is a critique of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and brings in the voices of poets and artists from the region. In that book, he prophesized that the U.S. would find it difficult to "win" in Iraq and suggested that the only solution to the Iraqi situation was a truly autonomous democratic awakening, not one imposed from above. In addition, he has also written about the sweeping radical shifts in Latin American politics (Pirates of the Caribbean, 2006). A long-term analyst of Pakistani politics and critic of the military regimes in that country, his new book (The Duel, 2008) explores the corruption and oppression of the Musharraf regime, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (who was once a close friend of his), and its devastating consequences for the future of his beleaguered and home country.
In addition to his writing and editorial work, He is a prolific public speaker. He has widely lectured around the United States (e.g. UC Berkeley, U Pennsylvania, UC Santa Barbara, CUNY, etc.) and the world (e.g. London School of Economics, Sydney University, University of Barcelona, etc.) on current affairs and literary issues. He lives in London with his family.