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Victor Hugo meets Papillon in this effervescent memoir of war, slavery, and self-discovery, told with aplomb and humor in its first English translation.
A pioneering work of Ottoman Turkish literature, Prisoner of the Infidels brings the seventeenth-century memoir of Osman Agha of Timişoara—slave, adventurer, and diplomat—into English for the first time. The sweeping story of Osman’s life begins upon his capture and subsequent enslavement during the Ottoman–Habsburg Wars. Adrift in a landscape far from his home and traded from one master to another, Osman tells a tale of indignation and betrayal but also of wonder and resilience, punctuated with queer trysts, back-alley knife fights, and elaborate ruses to regain his freedom.
Throughout his adventures, Osman is forced to come to terms with his personhood and sense of belonging: What does it mean to be alone in a foreign realm and treated as subhuman chattel, yet surrounded by those who see him as an object of exotic desire or even genuine affection? Through his eyes, we are treated to an intimate view of seventeenth-century Europe from the singular perspective of an insider/outsider, who by the end his account can no longer reckon the boundary between Islam and Christendom, between the land of his capture and the land of his birth, or even between slavery and redemption.
About the Author
Giancarlo Casale is Chair of Early Modern Mediterranean History at the European University Institute and Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota.
"Brilliantly edited and introduced by Giancarlo Casale. . . . Osman’s eye-opening reflections on the dilemmas of difference and identity make this a story curiously of our time."
— Times Literary Supplement
"An excellent, lively English translation by Giancarlo Casale."
— The Times
"Elegantly presented and scrupulously edited by Casale. . . . The reader should undertake this trip into time and place with Osman for both his exploits and his learning."
— Middle East Quarterly
"Readers will enjoy the combination of Casale’s erudition and Osman Ağa’s straightforward but exciting story."
— Asian Review of Books
"With an intimacy that recalls Ibn Battuta…Prisoner of the Infidels provides a useful and entertaining window into 17th-century Europe and the Ottoman-Habsburg wars. This memoir reveals a depth, nuance, and grittiness that standard historical accounts cannot hope to convey. It centers the human experience, covering everything from mosquito bites to separations from, and reunions with, family."
— Reading Religion
"Besides being a splendidly enjoyable read, The Prisoner of the Infidels is also a valuable resource for both academic research and teaching."
— Critical Inquiry