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From the son of an English country parson and novelist praised by literary giants, to changing his faith and writing the preeminent English translation of the Quran; Marmaduke Pickhall’s life defied his upper-middle-class upbringing.

MANCHESTER, UK, Nov 2016 – It’s a tale forgotten. A life tucked away in the annals of British history which most Westerners know little or nothing about. But in the Muslim world, his name is iconic, some might even say legendary.

Marmaduke Pickthall was a novelist held in great esteem by the likes of D H Lawrence and H G Wells. In 1921 E M Forster wrote that Pickthall; “is the only contemporary English novelist who understands the Nearer East”. But his status in the Muslim world came about with his 1930 English translation of the Islamic sacred scripture – The Holy Quran; the first such translation by a Muslim for whom English was their native tongue.

Now, Pickthall’s extraordinary life, including his travels in the Middle East, his unconventional role in the First World War, his religious conversion, migration to India and his eventual return to England, are all documented in ‘Marmaduke Pickthall British Muslim’, a 1986 book now reissued by Beacon Books.

Having lived in a number of Middle Eastern countries while working for the British Council, author Peter Clark came across the story of Pickthall and was at once intrigued. In an interview with BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire’s Indus programme, Clark explained his fascination.

“Pickthall was a quiet Englishman who travelled around Syria and Palestine in the 1890’s and wanted to become a Muslim then but was persuaded, actually by the Imam of the mosque in Damascus not to. He came back to Britain, he got involved in writing novels. During the First World War, he sympathised with the Ottoman Empire which was at war with Britain and then in 1917 he embraced Islam.”

“He was more or less unemployable in Britain after the First World War,” Clark explains.

“But Indian friends looked after him. He had a job first in Bombay, and then for ten years he was in Hyderabad doing various jobs for the Nizam of Hyderabad, who sponsored his translation of The Holy Quran.”

“Pickthall is a man revered by Muslims but who remains relatively unknown outside of that diaspora,” says Jamil Chishti, Director of Beacon Books.

“It’s for this reason we felt it vital to revive his fascinating story and re-issue this wonderful book, especially at a time when there is renewed interest in the man through the book by Professor G. Nash.”

Beacon Books also plans to re-issue nine of Pickthall’s highly-acclaimed novels in early 2017.

Peter Clark has worked and lived in the Middle East for the best part of 50 years. He worked for the British Council for 30 years, living in different Arab countries. It was at this time that he learned Arabic and developed an interest in Marmaduke Pickthall.
For interview requests with Peter Clark, the author of ‘Marmaduke Pickthall British Muslim’ (ISBN: 978-0-9926335-9-2) contact Jamil Chishti at Beacon Books on 07939 839 809 or email info@beaconbooks.net