Robert Irwin: The Dabbling Dervish (The Dabbler)

Robert Irwin is an English writer who has written six novels and numerous studies of different aspects of Islamic culture. He is also the Middle Eastern editor of the Times Literary Supplement and has been instrumental in shaping the list of the hyper literary and thoroughly esoteric publisher Dedalus. While still a student at Oxford in the 1960s he travelled to Algeria with the intention of becoming a Sufi saint, an experience he describes in his latest extraordinary book, Memoirs of a Dervish. 

1)      The experiences you describe in Dervish seem to have inspired several books in your career- an Englishman immersed in his dreams in North Africa is the protagonist of The Arabian Nightmare; while you described the occult, weird side of the late 60s in Satan Wants Me. In some ways Dervish feels like a key of sorts to those books, a missing chapter in the Irwin oeuvre I didn’t even know was missing. Why did you wait so long to tackle this aspect- perhaps the central aspect- of your 60s experience?