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The Gardens of Light

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  3,602 ratings  ·  322 reviews
This is the story of Mani, a forgotten figure, but whose name is yet, paradoxically, on everyone's lips.

When using the words "Manichean" or "Manichaeism" one rarely thinks Mani, painter, doctor and Eastern philosopher of the third century, called "the Buddha of Light" by the Chinese and "the apostle of Jesus" by the Egyptians . His tolerant and humanist philosophy wanted t
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Interlink Publishing Group (first published March 1st 1991)
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Taha Noman ( طه نعمان ) لا
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Prophet Mani, founder of Manichaeism, is one of the forgotten figures of history, although he was very popular (and also much hated) in the 3rd century Babylonia - today's Iraq. Forgotten is also the town of Ctesiphon (near present-day Baghdad), capital of the Persian Empire under the Sassanid dynasty, where Mani was born and where he spread his religious beliefs.

Little information about the prophet was preserved throughout the centuries, until a parchment was discovered in 1969, containing acc
I should firstly 'fess up that I'd read a shopping list if Amin Maalouf had written it. There's a good reason for that though. It doesn't matter what the subject of the book is, he has a way of telling a story that makes me feel as if I'm curled up at his feet listening to him reading it.

In The Gardens of Light (heaven essentially) Maalouf tells the story of the life of Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, a term which has come to mean opposites, e.g. black and white, light and dark. I don't belie
Roy Elmer
Amin Maalouf has to be one of my favourite authors. Ever. He's a voice not well known in the West, a voice of inclusionism and tolerance of Middle-Eastern and French descent. He has written a brilliant and fascinating work of non-fiction, viewing the events leading up to 9/11 from Arab eyes, he has produced Samarkand and Leo the African, works of historical fiction that I thought were marvellous, and now I have discovered The Gardens of Light. It is amazing, and one of my new favourite books.

robin friedman
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Novel Of Mani

I read Amin Malouf's historical novel "The Gardens of Light" after reading Paul Kriwackek's high praise for it in his recent book about Zoroastrianism, "In Search of Zarathustra: Across Iran and Central Asia to find the Worlds' First Prophet." Maalouf has written a rare book about a historical period and figure that will be obscure to many readers. He has told an insipring story that may keep readers awake through many a late night.

"The Gardens of Light" was Maalouf's first novel.
Wilfred Berkhof
Jan 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in reading about one of the truly inspiring historical figures
Shelves: non-fiction
The Gardens of Light tells of the prophet/sage Mani who lived in the third century ad.

The story follows Mani's life, from his birth to his torturous death. The book centers on Mani but it also gives a great historical view of the Sassanid empire during that time. I especially loved the little gems of historical information on both the Sassanid and Roman empire Maalouf has dropped in to this story.

It does tend to be more of a historical book than a novel as Maalouf likes to stay true to the origi
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hero of the book Mani begins to his life with one religious order and proceed till when he is 24 years old. After this time, he decides to start his journey and people starts to gathers around him. King Shaphur supports him always until when he died. Mani keeps away himself all kind of war. He prefers always peace. Palace politics and Mani's tragic end. It is so nice book. ...more
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: arab-literature
The Gardens of Light is by Amin Maalouf, a Lebanese author. This is the second novel of his that I've read, Leo Africanus being the first.

This historical novel is the story of Mani, the crippled prophet who was the founder of Manichaeism, a now extinct belief system which was tolerant of the known faiths of the time and stressed the equality of all people. The main action of the novel takes place in Mesopotamia in what is now the region of modern Iraq in the 3rd century.

Mani reveres not only Je
Almir Olovcic
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another brilliant biographical story from Maalouf. As in Samarkand, Maalouf has managed to present us even more distant past and life of Many, his upbringing, preaching years and finally death. When reading this book, you are almost thrown back through the time and watching the world through Mani s eyes. He is one very tragic character, born too early to teach universal language of love, faith and universal God, without any boundaries, divisions, races, casts, only pure love for One and Only. Tr ...more
يحيى فهدي
Rest In Peace dear Mani !! no one wants to understand you!
Mohamed Tahar Hamada
The gardens of light by amine maalouf it's a really well written and interesting book that takes you into a trip through ages and empires and discuss the story of mani the founder and the prophet of Manichaeism religion long time forgotten this book takes a place in an empire held by a dynasty under the control of mages that wanna eradicate all religions under theire rules, mani in that time created a religion that came to gather people no matter theire races or sexe or religion or castes, final ...more
May 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Amin Maalouf chooses for his novel a perhaps impossible task, that of centering his narrative on a religious leader whose message has come down to us principally through the writings of those who opposed him. Mani was a preacher of the third century, common era; today he is principally remembered for the use of his name to describe a view of the world that hews to a rigid division between good and evil: Manichaeism. Born into a Judeo-Christian Gnostic sect, Mani lived in Zoroastrian Persia but w ...more
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-liberry
Wonderful on many different levels. Written with clarity and subtle elegance that I first misunderstood as dryness but came to appreciate as the story developed. One of the finer works of historical fiction I've read. ...more
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Amin Maalouf could make me interested in anything.
Rakesh Divakaran
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This is my first book by Amin Malouf.
Such a spectacular read!!! The story of Mani, now a completely forgotten figure, but the religion, known as Manichaeism, had once thrived all over the world. It was the religion of light and dark, the eternal loving father and the prince of darkness.
The story starts in the 3rd century, when a Parthian Warrior, by name Patek, gets mesmerized by a Jewish sage known as Sittai, who came to Babylonia from Palmyra, which was then a bastion of diverse culture, popul
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ahhhhhhh! What a pleasure I wish I could have found the french edition but even in translation it was a delight!
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
A light, beautiful tale of Mani, founder of Manichaeism, from his first encounters with his inner voice, his first communications with God. He founded a popular religion in Iran while making alliances with the rulers and suggesting a sort of pantheism, embracing aspects of Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism. Well-written and short, but certainly interesting.
Görkem Altıok
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lovely as all Maalouf books. Writer does not only gives us an interesting story in this book, he also makes us rethink about our perception of God and life so this book isn't just a book to help you pass the time. I think i will even go as far as to say that this book should be read to juniors as Mani's teachings(the ones in the book) are exactly what we need for the world. ...more
Geoff Balme
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A curious book I probably would not have chosen to read if it had not been mentioned by someone . . . I'm a sucker for people raving about books, as I often do, and when I hear someone excited about a book I tend to add it to my list stacks.
What this is is an attempted history book devoted to the life of an ancient sage who was respected by an ancient "Iranian" king (Sasanian actually) I assumed Persian, but there're so many distinctions of nation and culture it's easy to get swamped in the anc
not much of a novel, but a really interesting visit to what (for me) is a very neglected time and place. 'the gardens of light' are how heaven is described in the manichean religion, itself named for its prophet, mani. he made his religious pitch in the 3rd century sassanian empire, centered in persia but extending from india to the levant and the great rival to the romans. while the empire encompassed many buddhists and christians, the main, and for mani ultimately fatal, competition was the fi ...more
Carl Waluconis
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Interested in ancient religious figures
Shelves: fiction
Ancient religions and civilizations have always gathered my attentions, so this novel about Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, once a major religion, now all but gone, grabbed me for many reasons. I really knew close to nothing about it. Mani is of course the central character. As he roams the Sassanian Empire, he gathers disciples and followers. Eventually one of them is the "King of Kings", the ruler of the Sassanian Empire, which rivals and struggles with the Roman Empire. Mani wins over this ...more
Aleksandar Sarkic
Amin Maalouf is definetely one of my favorite writers, i just love his style of writing, it really transports you to the time he is writing of. First book i have read from Amin was wonderful Samarkand 10 or more years ago, the last one i have read from him was this gem Gardens of Light. I didn't know for this book till few months ago and i found it by accident in catalogue of local book store, tommorow i went there, first they told me it was sold out because it was published in Serbian in 2016 b ...more
Oct 28, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing illuminating , entertaining or novel about this work , but rather a monotonous and plain plot , based on his previously deployed literary structure , I would say an exhausted technique used and reused again .
my only two reasons for reading this work are : 1) it has been waiting on my shelf for almost 5 years , 2) after reading almost all of his major literary output (with the exception of Balthasar's odyssey) , I am planing this summer to read 'Spectres of Orientalism' which is a literar
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book did not interest me at all.
To be totally fair, the 2 stars rating doesn't fall totally on the nature of the book or the writer whom i love, by the way.
Part of it is actually me being not in the right state of mind while reading it. Another reason is the translation. Although the translator uses exquisite and very impressive vocabulary but the translation was not engaging for me. The third reason i didn't like this book is the fact that the book was supposed to be about Mani, a messenge
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was my first fiction book in years and satisfied me so well. For readers who are immersed in Roman history and the related field of Iranology. Maalouf's attention to detail in this story of Mani's life is demonstrated by his use of Aramaic words and his ability to conjour up a scene which readers will be familiar with. Whether it's a fertile palm tree grove on the banks of the Tigris, the orderly chaos of a temple precinct or the madness at the market under the scorching summer sun, Maalouf ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lebanon, biography
3.5 stars. Maybe in its original language it deserves four. Or maybe it’s my usual difficulty at reading biographies. But I certainly found certain passages fascinating, particularly the historical ones. Mani’s philosophy was fragmentary at best, but then again it seems none of his books survived the fury of his adversaries. I would like to read more on the subject, Maalouf was evidently fascinated by it, which is not surprising after reading Les identités meurtrières. And I certainly will read ...more
Kang-Chun Cheng
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
wow, this book really did not do it for me. It seemed nearly impossible for me to follow along, let along form attachments to Mani/ any part of the story. quite possibly my troglodyte knowledge of the 3 century ad geo-political sphere had something to do with this, perhaps the translation from french to english also didn't go too well. can't help but respect Maalouf's ambition in writing this book though. ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
the topic was very interesting for me. a historic fiction, narrating prophet Mani's life.
i think trying to be historically accurate made it less relatable in comparison to Malouf's other publication - samarkand.
Ayad Gabriel
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amin Malouf’s the garden of light is a journey in the life of the Middle East where so many ideas were borne ,nourished ,but later buried with time .The Middle East should build upon its diversity
To continue its roll as a birth place of civilization
Teresa Dominguez (book.indulgence)
I absolutely loved this book.

The story of Mani and Manichaeism stayed with me for such a long time that even now I remember the story and get a warm feeling. It's written in a beautiful way and reads like a great novel with a strong message. I'll read more from Maalouf for sure.
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The life of Mani 1 30 Apr 28, 2009 07:55PM  

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Amin Maalouf (Arabic: أمين معلوف; alternate spelling Amin Maluf) is a Lebanese journalist and novelist. He writes and publishes primarily in French.

Most of Maalouf's books have a historical setting, and like Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk, and Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Maalouf mixes fascinating historical facts with fantasy and philosophical ideas. In an interview Maalouf has said that his role as a writer

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