In Traces of a Tattoo, the theme centres around a journey from death (Hisham’s wife), to life (Wissam and Aroob). If this interpretation is correct, then Gardens of Despair takes the opposite direction and moves slowly but surely from life to death. Still, those who hold this view, may not have sufficiently realised that death was not offered by the novelist as a means by itself but rather as a means to life i.e. the determination of the heroine (Rasha) to have a child despite warnings that it may cost her life.
My interest in Al Andalus was sparked in the late 1970s by Stanley Lane-Poole’s The Story of the Moors in Spain which was first published in 1886, or 10 years before the death of his uncle Edward William Lane. Like his uncle, Stanley (18 December 1854 – 29 December 1931) was bitten by the Orient’s bug hard. From 1874 to 1892 he worked in the British Museum, and after that in Egypt researching Archaeology. From 1897 to 1904 he had a chair as Professor of Arabic studies at Dublin University.
Four editions of this book were published in Cairo and Damascus and it remains very popular although a major expanded update of the book was released many years ago with the title Martyrdom of the Andalusian Nation. Both books are in Arabic and those interested can download free PDF copies.