Spices, Saints and Saracens

Spices, Saints and Saracens coverI regret to announce that the publication of Spices, Saints, and Saracens has been cancelled. As a Christian evangelist in a time of great anxiety over and military conflict with Muslim empires, Fabri sometimes writes with contempt of Islam and Muhammad. The publisher felt that these words would be inflammatory and insulting to some readers and that no amount of historical contextualization would mitigate this.

My editor and I spent many months trying to find a compromise and, while we are both disappointed that none could be found, I appreciate the amount of good faith effort he and his staff put in and  the amount of patience with which they approached this dilemma.

In one of the most important and entertaining accounts of medieval pilgrimage, Felix Fabri, a German Dominican friar, narrates his adventures in 1483, returning through Egypt after making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mt. Sinai. It is Ramadan, the Nile is flooding, and the pilgrims race to meet their ships in Alexandria before they are left behind. Along the way they are lost in the desert, troubled by crocodiles, and fleeced by their duplicitous hosts. Sometimes philosophical, often comic, Fabri’s fascinating eyewitness account of Cairo and Alexandria under the Mamluk sultan in the last days of Egypt’s control of the spice trade is filled with stories and details that will ring true to anyone who has ever traveled off the beaten path or on a budget, as well as supplying a wealth of information for social historians of the medieval world.


2 thoughts on “Spices, Saints and Saracens

  1. Greetings! For some time I have been waiting anxiously for the publication of your translation of the latter portion of Fabri’s pilgrimage and have been on the AUC Press website just now to try to order it, but can’t seem to find it now. I’m fascinated by his journey and by him and am working on a writing project at the moment which would benefit in untold ways from your translation, I’m sure. I wonder if you could tell me when I can hope to be able to purchase a copy for myself?

    Many thanks,
    Kimberly Meyer

    • Kimberly,

      Thanks for your interest. Fabri’s journey is indeed a fascinating one!

      I’ve been meaning to make an update for some time now. Unfortunately, the publication of Spices, Saints, and Saracens has been cancelled. Fabri often writes disrespectfully (sometimes very disrespectfully) of Muhammad and repeats anti-Islam myths and propaganda common in Europe at the time. The editors at AUCP did not feel comfortable publishing this work in the current climate of sectarian violence without cutting many passages that they thought would cause offense. I feel that excising all these passages and leaving only those that speak kindly of Islam and Muslims would give the false impression that Fabri was an Arabophile, free of prejudice, and better informed about Islam than he was. Also, one of these passages, an “imaginary pilgrimage” to Mecca, is vital to understanding the nature of Fabri’s Wanderings as an imaginary pilgrimage itself. Fabri felt these imaginary pilgrimages were in some ways more valuable than real ones since the reader can go places that were closed to him or her in reality as the Holy Land was to most of his readers and Mecca was to Fabri.

      The editors at AUCP were very patient and we both hoped that we might find a compromise. I’m very grateful for all the time and effort that they put into it, and we both regret that we couldn’t find a form that we both felt comfortable with. So, I’m looking for a new publisher and I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to wait a little longer!

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