"For historians of the novel in the Arab world, Jurji Zaydan's historical romances comprise one important ancestor of many modern novels, including the works of Naguib Mahfouz."—Terri DeYoung, University of Washington
Shajar al-Durr, known as Tree of Pearls, was one of the most famous Arab queens and the only woman in the medieval Arab world to rule in her own name. Her narrative is one element of a much larger story of the unsettled political climate of thirteenth-century Egypt. In this eponymous novel, Zaydan charts the fall of the Ayyubid Dynasty and the rise of the Mamluke Dynasty through the adventures of Tree of Pearls and Rukn al- Din Baybars, a young Mamluke commander who eventually triumphs as the ruler of Egypt. War, political intrigue, murder, and a female ruler who was born a slave combine for an irresistible story, while Zaydan’s keen observations on royal politics and subverted gender roles offer readers a richly detailed glimpse of the cultural milieu of the time.
Tree of Pearls, originally published in 1914, is the last in a famous series of historical novels written by Zaydan, an accomplished historian whose books continue to be read widely in the Arab world today. Selim’s fluid translation introduces an English audience to one of the Arab world’s influential writers.
Jurji Zaydan (1861–1914) was one of the most important Arab writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. He founded Al-Hilal, the foremost cultural and literary journal in the Arab world. Zaydan is the author of two canonical, multi-volume histories of Arabic literature and Islamic civilization and twenty-three historical novels.
Samah Selim is an assistant professor in the Department of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures at Rutgers University. She is the author of The Novel and the Rural Imaginary in Egypt, 1880–1985. Her translations include The Collar and the Bracelet by Yahya Taher Abdullah, winner of the Saif Ghobsh-Banipal Prize, and Miral al-Tahawy‘s Brooklyn Heights.