In an age when physical books matter less and less, here is a thrilling story about a book that meant everything.
This true-life detective story unveils the journey of a sacred text — the tenth-century annotated bible known as the Aleppo Codex — from its hiding place in a Syrian synagogue to the newly founded state of Israel. Based on documents kept secret for 50 years, as well as personal interviews with key figures, Matti Friedman proposes a new theory of what happened when the codex left Aleppo, Syria, in the late 1940s and eventually surfaced in Jerusalem, mysteriously incomplete.
By recounting this history, Friedman explores the once vibrant Jewish communities in Islamic lands and follows the thread into the present, uncovering difficult truths about how the manuscript was taken to Israel and how its most important pages went missing. Along the way, he raises critical questions about who owns historical treasures and the role of myth and legend in the creation of a nation.
‘This intriguing book explores what the author was able to piece together about the fate of the Aleppo Codex … Friedman tells us that he saw real-life parallels to Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose. Readers who have enjoyed that novel will marvel at how, as in the novel, so in the saga of the Aleppo Codex, a book that had survived 1000 years is betrayed in the 20th century by the very people charged with guarding it.’
Robert Willson, Canberra Times
View all reviews
‘Move over Dan Brown and the host of writers digging through their arcane archaeological facts and esoteric biblical tales. Fact still trumps fiction … [The Aleppo Codex] is by turns documentary and thriller, with its readable amalgam of history, myth and mayhem. Friedman takes the reader on a rollicking, often desperate, tour around the globe and through time from Abraham and the Crusades to the present. Riveting.’
Noel Murphy, Geelong Advertiser
‘An outstanding, highly readable thriller that also gives the reader a view of the history of the Jewish people.’
John Caples, Launceston Examiner
‘A remarkable book, exhaustively researched and beautifully written … Friedman has done a great job here.’
Graeme Barrow, Northern Advocate
‘An ancient and priceless book, a murky history of evasions and coverups, an underground of sinister and possibly violent dealers, a former spy who drops tantalizing hints and a wily 84-year-old millionaire who says stuff like, “The problem with this story is that it could damage your health”: Are these the ingredients for a cheesy, improbable historical thriller? Yet The Aleppo Codex, Matti Friedman’s account of his attempts to learn the history of one of the world’s most precious books, sports all of these assets, and it’s nonfiction … fascinating … lively … [The Aleppo Codex] builds to a moral crescendo more impressive than the climactic fight scene in any thriller.’
Laura Miller, Salon
‘A tale of smugglers, spies, and human greed. A fascinating read.’
Lucy Sussex, The Sunday Age
‘The Aleppo Codex could be read as a thriller. It could also be read as a history of the Jewish people, or as a meditation on history and myth … This great book comes closer to containing everything than any book I've read in a long, long time.’
Jonathan Safran Foer