Saladin (2011) by Anne-Marie Eddé was published in France in 2008; the book is translated by Jane Marie Todd.
The author’s analysis of the discourse related to Saladin is elegantly organized and easy to follow.
Eddé notes that the legend that has surrounded Saladin cannot be understood outside of the historical, literary, and political context in which it spread.
The book begins with a chronology, of which the following are examples:
- August 1176: Saladin lays siege to Masyāf, the fortress of the Assassins
- September 20 – October 2, 1187: Siege, then conquest, of Jerusalem.
- September 1-3, 1192: Conclusion of a truce between the Franks and the Muslims.
- December 15, 1195: Saladin’s coffin is transferred to his mausoleum north of the Usmayyad Mosque in Damascus.
Saladin was not an Arab but a Kurd; very few archival documents related to him have been preserved; and it’s not always easy to distinguish between Saladin’s true personality and the ideal monarch to which he’s typically compared.
Eddé notes that the facts of “how things actually happened” have their undeniable importance, but the task of understanding Saladin involves above all “the way they were presented, understood, and experienced by Saladin’s contemporaries.”
This engaging study of the discourse about Saladin focuses on “the representation of the ideal sovereign, the image of the other, the birth of a myth. All these questions will make it possible to inquire into what separates discourse from reality, literary construction from history.”