Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slovene Literature, Geopolitics and Video Games, oh my!

I’ve been on a Slovene literature kick lately, so it seems like as good a time as any for a fun fact on the subject:

Did you know, for example, that Assassin’s Creed, one of the most popular video game franchises in the world, was based on Vladmir Bartol’s novel Alamut ? No? You didn’t? Well, neither did I. But here’s why you should care. The book just happens to be the most widely translated work of Slovenian literature out there, so it’s one of the rare ones you can pull up online, order quickly and read in English. It’s also  a chillingly prescient story that predicted the Al Quaeda terrorist training camps that changed the world on 9/11 (and made games like Assassin's Creed "all the rage"), even though it was written clear back in 1938. Here’s the description from Amazon: 
Alamut takes place in 11th Century Persia, in the fortress of Alamut, where self-proclaimed prophet Hasan ibn Sabbah is setting up his mad but brilliant plan to rule the region with a handful elite fighters who are to become his "living daggers." By creating a virtual paradise at Alamut, filled with beautiful women, lush gardens, wine and hashish, Sabbah is able to convince his young fighters that they can reach paradise if they follow his commands. With parallels to Osama bin Laden, Alamut tells the story of how Sabbah was able to instill fear into the ruling class by creating a small army of devotees who were willing to kill, and be killed, in order to achieve paradise. Believing in the supreme Ismaili motto “Nothing is true, everything is permitted,” Sabbah wanted to “experiment” with how far he could manipulate religious devotion for his own political gain through appealing to what he called the stupidity and gullibility of people and their passion for pleasure and selfish desires.
 I’ve got a copy sitting on my shelf, and this is probably the year that I tackle it. You should do the same. Check it out:

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