One of the most important figures in Middle Eastern history is the Kurdish Muslim army leader and Sultan Saladin. Conquering Jerusalem, Al-Quds, from the Crusaders, he is still idolized as a hero in large parts of the Muslim world. But Saladin is more than a symbol from the time of the Crusades, he might also be a key to the future.
After conquering Jerusalem, Saladin let Jews, Christians and Muslims all freely practice their religions in the holy city. It was this image of Saladin the reconciliator that made the Norwegian author Thorvald Steen, during the 2008 Wergeland Conference, propose an international Saladin day. Writers, religious leaders and intellectuals partaking at the conference immediately welcomed the proposal. The House of Literature now opens its doors for four days of lectures, new dramatic poetry, conversations and an writers' evening.
... is among Norway's most internationally oriented writers, having written about historical figures such as Saladin and Snorre, as well as contemporary literature, children's books, essays and plays. A former head of the Norwegian Writer's Union and Norwegian PEN board member, Steen has been translated into 20 languages.
... is an international author, historian and political activist. He has written more than 30 books of non-fiction, fiction and history, and is a popular lecturer. He was one of the organisers of the big demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, and has been celebrated in song by the Rolling Stones.
... is director at the Norwegian Opera and Ballet. He studied stage directing in London, where he also worked as an actor. Remlov has previously been artistic director of the theater Den Nationale Scene in Bergen as well as the director of Norsk Film A/S.
... is among the most read writers in Sweden, a distinguished commentator and social critic. World famous for his spy novels about Carl Hamilton and the trilogy about Arn the Knight Templar, Guillou also has a background from journalism, and has written a number of non-fiction books.
... is the chairman of the organization Courage to Refuse, and a decorated officer in the Israeli army.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4TH
10 AM - Why a Saladin day?
Open press conference with Thorvald Steen, initiator for the Saladin Days
6 PM - Who was Saladin?
Lecture by Tariq Ali
Warlord, avenger or reconciliator – who was Saladin? How was he perceived in his present time, both in the Middle East and in Europe, and what is said of him today?
THURSDAY, MARCH 5TH
6 PM - Contemporary drama about Saladin
Readings at the House of Literature
Tariq Ali and Thorvald Steen, together, are writing a new play with Saladin and Richard the Lionheart in the leading parts. The first version is performed as a stage reading at the 2009 Saladin Days, with opera director Tom Remlov as the director.
FRIDAY, MARCH 6TH
6 PM - Writers' meeting about Saladin
Jan Guillou, Tariq Ali and Thorvald Steen
Jan Guillou is writing a trilogy about Arn, Tariq Ali a quintet on Islam, and Thorvald Steen has written several historical novels set in the Arab world, such as the popular 2004 novel Kamelskyer (t: Camel Clouds).
Music by Javid Afsari Rad, one of the world's leading masters of the Persian instrument santur.
SATURDAY MARCH 7TH
13 PM - Saladin, Crusades and today's anti-Islamic currents
Lecture by Jan Guillou
The picture painted by Guillou of Saladin and the European Crusaders in his Arn trilogy are precise as regards to historical facts, while also expressing a position within today's European debate on Islam. In Guillou's depiction of the holy land, who the real barbarians are, is left open, and the discord between Christian groups is made more compelling by their view of Saladin and the relationship to the Muslims.
MONDAY MARCH 9TH
6 PM - Courage to refuse - Changing Israel
Lecture by David Zonshein
In 2002, David Zonshein, captain of the Israeli army, founded Ometz Le’Sarev («Courage to refuse»). Together with fifty other service members, he made public what has since been known as «The Soldiers' Letter», and refused to serve in the occupied territories. At the House of Literature, he will speak about this, and about how Saladin has been an inspiration to him in the creation of this organization, which today sports more than 600 members – all officers in the Israeli army.
The program is developed with financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.