The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts

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To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven in this “fast-paced narrative that is…part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract, and part out-and-out thriller” (The Washington Post).

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door.

“Part history, part scholarly adventure story, and part journalist survey….Joshua Hammer writes with verve and expertise” (The New York Times Book Review) about how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist from the legendary city of Timbuktu, became one of the world’s greatest smugglers by saving the texts from sure destruction. With bravery and patience, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. His heroic heist “has all the elements of a classic adventure novel” (The Seattle Times), and is a reminder that ordinary citizens often do the most to protect the beauty of their culture. His the story is one of a man who, through extreme circumstances, discovered his higher calling and was changed forever by it.
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About the author

Joshua Hammer was born in New York and graduated from Princeton University with a cum laude degree in English literature. He joined the staff of Newsweek as a business and media writer in 1988, and between 1992 and 2006 served as a bureau chief and correspondent-at-large on five continents. Hammer is now a contributing editor to Smithsonian and Outside, a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, and has written for publications including the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, the Condé Nast Traveler, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Atavist. He is the author of four nonfiction books, including The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, and has won numerous journalism awards. Since 2007 he has been based in Berlin, Germany, and continues to travel widely around the world.

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Reviews

3.6
162 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Apr 19, 2016
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781476777436
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Africa / West
History / Military / General
History / Modern / 21st Century
Religion / Islam / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Joshua Hammer
Newsweek's Jerusalem bureau chief Joshua Hammer arrived in the West Bank in October 2000 -- just after Ariel Sharon made his inflammatory visit to the Haram al-Sharif, otherwise known as the Temple Mount. Sharon's trip ignited the worst violence the Middle East had seen in decades. Overnight, the peace process gave way to an ever-worsening cycle of attack, revenge, and retaliation, destabilizing the entire region, killing thousands, and culminating in Israel's reoccupation of Palestinian towns in 2002.
A Season in Bethlehem is the story of one West Bank town's two-year disintegration, as witnessed by a reporter who was there from the beginning. Woven together from Hammer's own firsthand reportage plus hundreds of interviews, it follows a dozen characters whose lives collided on the streets of this biblical city. They include a Bedouin tribesman who rose to become the commander of Bethlehem's most feared and brutal gang of gunmen; the beleaguered governor, an opponent of the al-Aqsa intifada, who believed he had a mandate to stop the violence, only to discover that Yasser Arafat was undermining him; a Christian businesman who watched helplessly as his community was squeezed between Muslim militants and the Israeli army; an eighteen-year-old female honors student turned suicide bomber; and an Israeli reservist, son of a leader of the Peace Now movement, who wrestled with his left-wing convictions as he rode to battle through the predawn streets.
The narrative reaches a climax with a moment-by-moment recreation of the epochal drama that drew many of these characters together: the thirty-nine-day siege of the Church of the Nativity. A clear-eyed chronicle of deepening chaos and violence, in which Hammer lets the opposing sides speak for themselves, A Season in Bethlehem is both a timely and timeless look at how longstanding religious and political tensions finally boiled over in a place of profound resonance: the birthplace of Jesus.
Wendy Pearlman
LONG-LISTED FOR THE CARNEGIE MEDAL

Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.

Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.

Jim DeFede
The True Story Behind the Events on 9/11 that Inspired Broadway’s Smash Hit Musical Come from Away

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.

As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news.


Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. As a show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill.

Joshua Hammer
Newsweek's Jerusalem bureau chief Joshua Hammer arrived in the West Bank in October 2000 -- just after Ariel Sharon made his inflammatory visit to the Haram al-Sharif, otherwise known as the Temple Mount. Sharon's trip ignited the worst violence the Middle East had seen in decades. Overnight, the peace process gave way to an ever-worsening cycle of attack, revenge, and retaliation, destabilizing the entire region, killing thousands, and culminating in Israel's reoccupation of Palestinian towns in 2002.
A Season in Bethlehem is the story of one West Bank town's two-year disintegration, as witnessed by a reporter who was there from the beginning. Woven together from Hammer's own firsthand reportage plus hundreds of interviews, it follows a dozen characters whose lives collided on the streets of this biblical city. They include a Bedouin tribesman who rose to become the commander of Bethlehem's most feared and brutal gang of gunmen; the beleaguered governor, an opponent of the al-Aqsa intifada, who believed he had a mandate to stop the violence, only to discover that Yasser Arafat was undermining him; a Christian businesman who watched helplessly as his community was squeezed between Muslim militants and the Israeli army; an eighteen-year-old female honors student turned suicide bomber; and an Israeli reservist, son of a leader of the Peace Now movement, who wrestled with his left-wing convictions as he rode to battle through the predawn streets.
The narrative reaches a climax with a moment-by-moment recreation of the epochal drama that drew many of these characters together: the thirty-nine-day siege of the Church of the Nativity. A clear-eyed chronicle of deepening chaos and violence, in which Hammer lets the opposing sides speak for themselves, A Season in Bethlehem is both a timely and timeless look at how longstanding religious and political tensions finally boiled over in a place of profound resonance: the birthplace of Jesus.
Joshua Hammer
Origen y destino de las caravanas que cruzan el Sáhara occidental desde la Edad Media, Tombuctú era un mito en los confines del desierto. La imaginación y el comercio habían depositado allí fabulosas riquezas, pero sus muros ocultaban un tesoro muy distinto: 370.000 manuscritos que recogían los saberes cultivados por la erudición árabe durante cinco siglos. Había tratados científicos, matemáticos, filosóficos o místicos, textos clásicos, poemas, devocionarios y manuales para la mejora del rendimiento carnal. Aquel templo de la inteligencia fue profanado por la horda de fanáticos que conquistó el norte de Mali a principios de 2012. Su ley se perpetró sin dilaciones: ladrones mutilados, santuarios destruidos, adúlteros lapidados y obras impías condenadas a la hoguera. El fuego divino contra la razón humana. Los héroes de este relato se las ingeniaron para salvarla. Abdelkader Haidara había dedicado treinta años a reunir el fondo bibliográfico amenazado por las llamas. Cuando ardieron los primeros volúmenes decidió organizar una operación de contrabando para impedir que los milicianos de la fe consumaran su fechoría. Durante varios meses, los baúles salieron de la ciudad con su inestimable carga de papel. Por ásperos caminos llegaban a orillas del Níger eludiendo los azares de la guerra y desde allí continuaban río arriba hasta Bamako, la capital del país. Un viaje lleno de incertidumbres y episodios novelescos. Esa es la aventura que narra este libro, una historia que, por una vez, acaba felizmente. Los contrabandistas de Tombuctú consiguieron burlar a los inquisidores.
約書亞.漢默(Joshua Hammer)
◆美國亞馬遜書店逾200位讀者好評推薦,平均4.2顆星

◆美國亞馬遜伊斯蘭歷史類No.1、非洲政治類No.1

◆全美圖書館員推薦Library Reads當月選書

◆《我們最幸福》作者、《阿拉伯的勞倫斯》作者強力推薦


勘比電影情節的真實歷史事件,

一旦失敗,將賠上整個文明!

為捍衛數百年歷史的珍貴伊斯蘭手稿,

一群看似溫文的圖書館員,竟化身膽大包天的盜書者,

與激進組織鬥智鬥勇,鋌而犯險搶救古籍!


「鹽來自北方,黃金來自南方,

阿拉的教導和智慧瑰寶僅見於廷巴克圖。」


廷巴克圖,一個神祕的國度、位於西非馬利的千年沙漠古城。自十六世紀起,此處的天文、伊斯蘭律法、詩集、歷史等知識典籍薈萃,文化及學術臻至頂盛,成為非洲唯一的知識殿堂及文化中心。


長期以來,海達拉家族透過遊說、收購等各種方式,極力保存此處的阿拉伯手稿,並獲得各界人士贊助,成立一座私人圖書館,其目的不只為了保存文化,同時也企圖透過手稿的保存與分享,讓大眾了解伊斯蘭文化的真實精神。


2012年,數千名激進份子攻占西非馬利共和國,控制了包括廷巴克圖在內的大部分領土。身為藏書管理員的阿布杜.海達拉博士,開始策畫一連串驚險的盜書行動,準備將三十五萬冊珍稿全數偷渡出城,運到安全的馬利南部……


本書作者約書亞.漢默,二十年多次走訪廷巴克圖,透過第一手觀察與訪問,以生動的筆觸,將廷巴克圖的歷史娓娓道來,並將海達拉與同伴的熱情與膽識、與基地組織驚險鬥智的精采過程,毫無遺漏地呈現出來,不但讀來令人熱血澎湃,也能透過如此振奮人心的故事,一窺伊斯蘭的真實面貌。


【好評推薦!】(依姓氏筆畫序)


何穎怡.商周出版選書顧問 

張健芳.暢銷作家

陳斐娟.節目主持人

涂豐恩.「故事」網站創辦人

劉復苓.譯者 



出版社 商周出版 (城邦)

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