Léon l'Africain characters ´ 107

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Léon l'Africain characters ´ 107 ↠ Exile and pilgrimage the power of sexual love and family bonds the savagery of war and the profundity of religious passions are masterfully evoked in this tale of one man's journey set against the splendor of the Renaissance and the vast tapestry of Muslim and Christian empiresExile and pilgrimage the power of sexual love and family bonds the savagery of war and the p. So good I changed my name by deed poll

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Against the splendor of the Renaissance and the vast tapestry of Muslim and Christian empir. Reading Amin Maalouf's book is a bit like viewing McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World In that map north is at the bottom and south at the top In addition Asia and the Pacific Ocean are in the center It's a jarring inversion of perspective In the world history class I took in college the key figures were Ferdinand and Isabella Charles V and Martin Luther The overarching theme was the rise of the nation state Maalouf's narrative is through Muslim eyes His protagonist is a cosmopolitan polyglot a self described citizen of nowhere and everywhere born in 1494 as Hasan ibn Muhammad al Wazzan In his world political boundaries blur and change with alarming rapidity In his world the salient entities are enclaves of displaced refugees — Jews Conversos Granadans Circassians Berbers Arabs and Genoans — and the trade routes connecting Mediterranean ports and cities threading the passes of the Atlas Mountains the oases of the Sahara and the centers of the Songhai Empire in west Africa covering present day Mali and Ghana Maalouf offers no maps in this book Perhaps that is intentional In this world locales like Sijilmassa Ouarzazate door of the desert Tabalbala and the Taghaza salt mines are as familiar as Timbuktu Fez Cairo and Rome A map would only serve to reinforce our preconceptions about the importance and continuity of these places when the narrative is a succession of accelerating discontinuities Actual polities had blurred boundaries determined by the fortunes of warfare and the purses of warlords constantly struggling to pay their armies This was the world of Hasan ibn Muhammad al Wazzan Hasan the Granadan baptized by Pope Leo X as Jean Leon de Medici and now known by his pen name Leo AfricanusThe book is written in the guise of a memoir addressed to Guiseppe born in Rome — or Yusuf if the Arabic version is preferred Hasan's son It is divided into four sections The Book of Granada 1489 1494 The Book of Fez 1495 1513 The Book of Cairo 1513 1519 and the Book of Rome 1519 1527 Within each section the chapters are labeled by year according to the Muslim lunar calendar Despite this straight forward chronological progression the historical events are disorienting Few western readers will be familiar with the key actors in Hasan's life How many of you are familiar with Boabdil Muhammad XII exiled Sultan of Granada Muhammad the Portuguese Mohammed al Burtuali Sultan of Fez Al Ashraf Tumanbay Tumanbay II the last Sultan of Cairo or Salim the Grim Salim I Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Suleiman the Magnificent may strike a familiar chord but possibly only in the context of his defeat at the gates of Vienna in 1529 Yet each of these men had a distinct personality and political agenda that affected the course of historyMy cursory reading of the first two sections caused me some initial confusion Many of the events pre date Hasan's birth; others occur during his early childhood He tells the story through the vantage point of his mother Salma his father Muhammed and his maternal uncle Khali and the first person point of view is not spoken in his own voice His voice assumes the narration as he reaches adolescence He develops friendships with two unlikely boys as a student the clever Harun the Ferret and the enigmatic Ahmad the Lame One He encounters and represses his first sexual stirrings with his half sister Mariam He is estranged from his father and only develops sympathy for his predicament far into his adult years These domestic travails are folded into Hasan's observations in a caravan where he accompanies his maternal uncle Khali However Maalouf avoids the exoticism of a travelogue although he does relate some fantastical stories gleaned from some of the people they encounter Instead Maalouf's novel derives much of its flavor from Hasan's shrewd observations He describes Ferdinand's advance after taking possession of the Alhambra “A major war unfolded which the Muslims could not win but which if they could not have avoided they could at least have delayed It was to last ten years and end in the most ignominious manner possible In addition it was accompanied by a bloody and demoralizing civil war so often the fate of kingdoms on their way to extinction” p18 He reflects on the intellectual decline precipitated by civil war “And then came the drying up of the Spirit and of the pen To defend themselves against the ideas and customs of the Franks men turned Tradition into a citadel in which they shut themselves up Granada could only produce imitators without talent or boldness” p37 Maalouf displays his gift for storytelling through the voices of his characters Hasan's father Muhammed describes the unease during Boabdil's reign “On this autumn day the yellowing leaves were securely attached to the trees than the notables of Granada to their monarch The city was divided as it had been for years between the peace party and the war party neither of which called upon the sultan” p24Maalouf imbues Hasan with a uiet but steady moral compass Despite his political instincts which favor an Ottoman victory that would free Granada from Spanish dominion he warns his hosts in Cairo of an impending Ottoman attack in order to secure the lives of his Circassian wife and her son Bayezid a descendant of the Ottoman royal lineageIn Rome he is able to reconcile his Islamic beliefs with those of his Christian hosts finding common though uncomfortable ground with even his student Hans an enthusiastic proponent of Martin Luther Later Pope Clement VII probes his religious beliefs “'Would not religion have been the best of all ways of life for a man of learning and education like yourself'” Hasan responds “'To speak of religion in the Holy Father's presence is like speaking of one's fiancée in her father's presence'” Pressed he continues “'If the head of the Church was not listening to me I would say that religion teaches men humility but that it has none itself I would say that all religions have produced both saints and murderers with an eually good conscience That in the life of this city there are the Clement years and the Adrian the preceding pope an intolerant zealot and former inuisitor years between which religion does not allow you to chooseMuslims learn that the best of men is the most useful to mankind but in spite of such words they sometimes honour false zealots than real benefactors'” p329 For Maalouf humility is the foundation of religionThis was not an easy book to read I spent a great deal of time looking up the historical characters and events in order to gain some context His prose is contemplative than dramatic Even an episode about his new bride Fatima elicits intellectual mirth than outright laughter Nevertheless this is an important book written by an author who has thought deeply about the way we view history and our responsibility to a humanistic outlookNOTES is an interesting examination of the perspective of an upside down maphttppen internationalorgnewsin an interview with the author conducted in 2014httpauthorscalendarinfomaaloufhtm provides a succinct profile of the author

Amin Maalouf ß 7 review

Léon l'AfricainRofundity of religious passions are masterfully evoked in this tale of one man's journey set. Leo Africanus is a wonderfully realized imaginary autobiography of one Hasan of Granada driven from Spain along with his family at the time of the Inuisition From there his life was to follow the edges of the Mediterranean in a tale that covers the years from his birth in 1488 through the end of his writing in 1527 He lands in Fez with his family travels to Timbuktu Tunis Constaninople and Cairo He is involved in education in trade suffers horribly and also has wonderful gains personally and professionallyAnd then he is taken by pirates and shipped to Rome where he becomes a gift of the Pope Pope Leo X Thus he becomes Leo Africanus of the titleAnd what a story Leo tells The history of the Mediterranean cultures of his time it is all there to be seen through his eyes and experience Maalouf makes you feel that HasanLeo lived breathed as you or I There is one passage in particular that I want to add to the review Wherever you are some will want to ask uestions about your skin or your prayers Beware of gratifying their instincts my son beware of bending before the multitude Muslim Jew or Christian they must take you as you are or lose you When men's minds seem narrow to you tell yourself that the land of God is broad; broad His hands and broad His heart Never hesitate to go far away beyond all seas all frontiers all countries all beliefs p 360I will keep this book on my shelf along side my copy of Samarkand and hopefully read them both again But first I will seek out other works by the authorHighly recommended 45