From the holy mountain – discussion notes

This Wednesday the reading group has discussed the book ‘From the holy mountain‘ by William Dalrymple.

“In 587 a.d., two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their fragile world finally shattered under the great eruption of Islam. More than a thousand years later, using Moschos’s writings as his guide, William Dalrymple sets off to retrace their footsteps and composes “an evensong for a dying civilization” –“Kirkus Reviews,” starred review” – NoveList Plus

The reading group discussed some questions:

  • Is this a subject area you knew anything about before? If so, were you surprised by any facts introduced in this book? If not, were you surprised by how interested you were in it?

 Some not surprised

Loved the history, the Byzantine art, history of relation

Amazed at the bravery

Only read small amount but loved, enjoyed it. Would love to finish

Could not put it down

Always interested in Ottomans

Saw it as a history book

Most seemed to have only part/only differ write it

Not surprised at how interesting it was

Wonderful writer

Some had no idea about Byzantine and Ottomans

  • Has the book changed your opinion of a particular topic or certain person?

So many levels the unchanging ethos and tradition of theByzantineMountainsdespite so few monks

Islam will not go back to a state of balance

Increased appreciation of places, times and people

Syriahas been respectful of different religions even in the 6th century

Favoured the Palestinians

Humans don’t learn from history

  • How do you think the author treated the subject? Was the material presented in an interesting and thought-provoking way? How did the author achieve this?

Great research, easy to visualise places, people and events, Combined static with dynamic.

Style is – rather Monty Python

Easy reading, smooth – brilliantly segued from one time to time, place to place

The stories about the tribal conflicts within groups e.g. Ultra orthodox Jews

The 6th century and 20th century – beautiful connections made.

1994 issues seem to be contemporary in 2012

  • If the book is about a controversial topic, do you think the author gave a fair and balanced account of the subject? Did they consider all sides to the debate? Or were they particularly biased?

Controversial – dealt with controversial matters – fairly in most cases –perhaps leads us to find out more, seek more information  about the meaning ,causes, implication of past and current events.

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