In a remote Saharan valley, a mysterious caravan approaches from the south. In its train, it brings gold and slaves but also marvelous, dangerous things-ancient pagan heresies and a scorching, unceasing southern wind. And more. For the first time in desert memory, a caravan has come to settle permanently, to build a city of walls and roofs in a land where men have always lived freely as nomads. Renowned as Ibrahim al-Koni's masterpiece, The Animists is an epic story of the many winds sweeping north and south across the Sahara-of the struggles between devils and humankind, worldly traders and Sufi ascetics, monotheists and animists, nomads and city dwellers, life and death. Al-Koni's depiction of the Saharan crossroads is at its richest in this novel-nowhere else is his portrayal of humanity's spiritual and existential battles so complex and compelling, nowhere else are his unique storytelling skills so evidently displayed.
ELLIOTT COLLA teaches comparative literature at Brown University. He is the author of Conflicted Antiquities and the translator of The Heron by Ibrahim Aslan (AUC Press, 2005).