Alamut is a novel by Vladimir Bartol, first published in 1938 in Slovenian, dealing with the story of Hassan-i Sabbah and the Hashshashin, and named after their Alamut fortress.
Bartol first started to conceive the novel in the early 1930s, when he lived in Paris. In the French capital, he met with the Slovene literary critic Josip Vidmar, who introduced him to the story of Hassan-i Sabbah. A further stimulation for the novel came from the assassination of Alexander I of Yugoslavia perpetrated by Croatian and Bulgarian radical nationalists, on the alleged commission of the Italian Facist government. When it was originally published, the novel was sarcastically dedicated to Mussolini.
Alamut takes place in 11th Century Persia, in the fortress of Alamut, where self-proclaimed prophet Hasan ibn Sabbah is setting up his mad but brilliant plan to rule the region with a handful elite fighters who are to become his "living daggers." By creating a virtual paradise at Alamut, filled with beautiful women, lush gardens, wine and hashish, Sabbah is able to convince his young fighters that they can reach paradise if they follow his commands. With parallels to Osama bin Laden, Alamut tells the story of how Sabbah was able to instill fear into the ruling class by creating a small army of devotees who were willing to kill, and be killed, in order to achieve paradise. Believing in the supreme Ismaili motto “Nothing is true, everything is permitted,” Sabbah wanted to “experiment” with how far he could manipulate religious devotion for his own political gain through appealing to what he called the stupidity and gullibility of people and their passion for pleasure and selfish desires.
The novel focuses on Sabbah as he unveils his plan to his inner circle, and on two of his young followers — the beautiful slave girl Halima, who has come to Alamut to join Sabbah's paradise on earth, and young ibn Tahir, Sabbah's most gifted fighter. As both Halima and ibn Tahir become disillusioned with Sabbah's vision, their lives take unexpected turns.
Alamut was originally written in 1938 as an allegory to Mussolini's fascist state. In the 1960's it became a cult favorite throughout Tito's Yugoslavia, and in the 1990s, during the Balkan's War, it was read as an allegory of the region's strife and became a bestseller in Germany, France and Spain. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the book once again took on a new life, selling more than 20,000 copies in a new Slovenian edition, and being translated around the world in more than 19 languages. This edition, translated by Michael Biggins, in the first-ever English translation.
The maxim of the novel is "Nothing is an absolute reality, all is permitted".
This book was one of the inspirations for the video game series Assassin's Creed.