Osman of Timișoara (c.1658-c.1731) began life as a privileged Ottoman living near the border with Christendom, fell captive to the Hapsburgs as a young soldier, spent about twelve years as a prisoner and a slave, rising through the ranks due to his diligence and intelligence. Eventually, he escaped back to Ottoman lands, where he became a translator and ended his career as a distinguished diplomat. In a unique document of its type (and the first-ever Ottoman autobiography), Osman in 1724 wrote down his tale of adventure and accomplishment.
Elegantly presented and scrupulously edited by Casale, associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Prisoner of the Infidels makes for compelling reading. Happily lacking the ornate and circumlocutious style typical of his time, Osman's surprising account (the young warrior turns out to be a fine pastry chef?) both informs the modern reader of a very different time and place while raising many questions, for example: the fact that a Muslim slave at one point eats the food left by the Hapsburg emperor; the mysteries of relations between master and slave or Christian and Muslim; or the unpredictable nature of relations with strangers ("no sooner had [the prisoners] boarded the boat and shoved off than the guides killed them, splitting open their bellies"). Then there is Osman's drinking alcohol in public but not eating pork; his successful escape using forged papers; and his warm relations with an ex-master.
In all, it seems that fixed differences for a modern person were far more fluid three hundred years ago. The reader should undertake this trip into time and place with Osman for both his exploits and his learning.