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Christopher de Bellaigue interview

Christopher de Bellaigue interview

The Baillie Gifford Prize 2017 longlist

Christopher de Bellaigue reveals the inspiration for his longlisted book The Islamic Enlightenment was frustration with the widespread notion of cultures of Islam as resistant to change in modern times.  

What does it feel like to be longlisted?

Very nice.

What inspired you to write this book?

My frustration at the sentiment, sadly widespread, that the cultures of Islam have been resistant to change in modern times – in fact they have changed and modernised out of all recognition. 

How did you research? 

In London’s excellent libraries.

If readers wanted to explore the subject further, which book(s) would you recommend?

Sayyid Qutb’s childhood memoir, A Child from the Village, conveys with extraordinary poignancy the strains and attractions of modernity as they impose themselves on a young Egyptian in the early twentieth century.

Where did you first discover the key figure in your book, Qurrat al-Ayn, who defied her husband to become a charismatic prophet?

Qurrat al-Ayn is a legendary figure among feminists in today’s Iran, and it’s impossible to miss her.

What are you working on next? 

A book about Suleyman the Magnificent, Europe’s first sultan, and also a family memoir. 

Christopher de Bellaigue


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