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A taste for the strange

Robert Irwin is a great historian of the medieval Arab world

By Robin Banerji   February 2004

Book: The Alhambra Author: Robert Irwin Price: Profile, ?15.99

Early on in his investigation of the Alhambra, the greatest work of Islamic architecture in Europe, I was pleased to realise that Robert Irwin is not worried about being speciously relevant. Irwin pursues his own interests – Ibn Khaldun on the link between oranges and politics, the influence of irrational numbers on Islamic architecture, 19th-century orientalist painting – and in doing so, he undermines the pseudo-certainties of that epic we’ve heard too much about recently: the clash of civilisations. The responses to the death of Edward Said, and the flood of…

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