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Edward Whittemore: Sinai Tapestry

A rollicking cavort through history, along the lines of Pynchon‘s Gravity’s Rainbow and Eco‘s Foucault’s Pendulum, Sinai Tapestry is the first in a tetralogy, in which author Edward Whittemore turns history upside down. Just for starters, this one shows that the Bible is completely wrong, that an English lord, who writes the definitive multi-volume work on sex in the Middle East, also owns the entire Ottoman Empire, that a Jerusalem antiques dealer is around 3000 years old and is fed up of being the victim every time someone attacks Jerusalem and vainly tries to defend the city, with the help of his friend who is a former Irish guerrilla fighter and who, by means of false papers, becomes a Crimean War hero… And so it goes on.

There is no point in describing this book. Suffice it to say that it is great fun but that it also has a very serious intent. As well as knocking many shibboleths – and not just the Bible, the British Empire, families, struggles for independence – Whittemore is eager to show his support for history’s victims, not just the obvious ones, but those like the Greeks massacred by the Turks in Smyrna in 1922 and the Armenians, also victims of the Turks, in 1916. This book is now out of print, not least because the rest of the tetralogy is feeble compared to this one. However this first one is both wildly entertaining and a fascinating lesson in how to turn history upside down. Maybe it offends too many people – the British, the Jews, the Turks, the Christians, the Muslims, Queen Victoria. Few are left unscathed. And isn’t that what literature should do?

Publishing history

First published 1977 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston