Prisoner of the Infidels: The Memoir of an Ottoman Muslim in 17th-Century Europe
Osman of Timisoara
Paperback, 224 pages
Victor Hugo meets Papillon in this effervescent memoir of war, slavery, and self-discovery, told with aplomb and humor in its first English translation. A pioneering work of Ottoman Turkish literature, Prisoner of the Infidels brings the seventeenth-century memoir of Osman Agha of Timisoara-slave, adventurer, and diplomat-into English for the first time. The sweeping story of Osman's life begins upon his capture and subsequent enslavement during the Ottoman-Habsburg Wars.
Adrift in a landscape far from his home and traded from one master to another, Osman tells a tale of indignation and betrayal but also of wonder and resilience, punctuated with queer trysts, back-alley knife fights, and elaborate ruses to regain his freedom. Throughout his adventures, Osman is forced to come to terms with his personhood and sense of belonging: What does it mean to be alone in a foreign realm and treated as subhuman chattel, yet surrounded by those who see him as an object of exotic desire or even genuine affection? Through his eyes, we are treated to an intimate view of seventeenth-century Europe from the singular perspective of an insider/outsider, who by the end his account can no longer reckon the boundary between Islam and Christendom, between the land of his capture and the land of his birth, or even between slavery and redemption.