le 6 février 2012
While reading two books on Richard Lionheart, Frank McLynn's RICHARD AND JOHN and James Reston's WARRIORS OF GOD, I came across the story of Sinan, the head of a hashish cult called the Assassins, an organization capable of doing, in real life, what the godfather had done in film fiction with the horse's head. Both Richard and Saladin were so terrified of him that they did everything in their power to placate the old man. (One of many Sultans, upon awakening, found a dagger on his pillow; so warned, the Sultan awarded Sinan a yearly pension of 3,000 dinars.) Boys were accepted into the cult very young, and when the moment came for them to be used as killers, they were drugged and then admitted into a garden where they found, upon awaking, fountains, wonderful food and all the girls their young bodies could accommodate. They were told that this was Paradise, and that if they were lucky enough to be killed during their mission, this is what awaited them in recompense. So I ordered Bernard Lewis' book THE ASSASSINS. Lewis tells the story from the very beginning, with the founding of Islam, a story as dense as algebra and as convoluted as calculus. There are Imamates, Imams, viziers, Sultans, Caliphs, Caliphates, emirs, muftis, Shi'a, Sunni, Mongols, Ismailis, this sect and that sect, and murder galore. Here are some of the words I made note of concerning the interactions of these groups, words extracted from just 2 of the book's 134 pages: cunning, skin stuffed with straw, torture, flayed alive, beheaded, massacre, killing, conquest, death, assault, burned him. There are also some astonishing photos of the Assassins' mountain strongholds. Immensely complicated, extremely erudite, it is a 5-star effort, although stories of the assassination attempts should have been far more developed, because as it is, the book is often as dry as hay.