2005-12-04

Recent readings: Léon l'Africain

I'm starting off this new section to do a very rough review of books I read lately. There has been some time since I didn't read sustainably.

The first book in this series is Léon l'Africain by Amin Maalouf (أمين معلوف) or "Leo Africanus" (الأسد الإفريقي). I have read the original version in French.

Amin Maalouf is a Lebanese novelist living in France. He has covered in a very elegant style the West's relationship with Islam, Muslims and the Islamo-Arabic civilisation in general.

In Léon l'Africain, Amin Maalouf depicts the life of a genuine figure of the 15th-16th century: Hassan Al Wazzan (حسان الوزان) or, maybe, (حسن الوزان) known to the West as Jean-Léon de Médicis, the geograph. Hassan was born in Granada (غرناطة) in modern day Spain, he moved to Morocco as part of the massive Muslims and Jews migration after the Inquisition.

Hassan gets elevated in the ranks of society and becomes a minister/ambassador to the ruler, he visits Timbuktu, Mali which was a very developed and prosperous city at the time. His childhood friend goes into a rebellion movement and their ways cross in fantastic ways.

A quick journey to Tunis, Tunisia, then a trip to Constantinopole and a settlement in Cairo, Egypt. From Egypt, he travels back to Tunisia fearing the Ottomans, but gets abducted in Jerba, Tunisia by Sicilian pirates to end up between the hands of the Leo (Leon) X, the Pope in Rome, Italy.

Hassan Al Wazzan told us about the stressful last days of Granada and the mood of dispair that was established, the news of Jews being burnt alive in other districts was to tell Granada Jews and Muslims alike they were next. In all this, there was the voice of Astaghfirullah, who was always there to remind the city of what they did wrong and that they were getting what they deserved. Reading through the chapter, you'd find that Astaghfirullah was, somehow, th e same voice that we hear today but prefer not to listen to.

The life of Hassan Al Wazzan was used by Amin Maalouf to tell the story of so much happening in (today's) Spain, France, Italy, Egypt, Mali, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey. This fantastic tale of a figure that lived in the West and in the East is very captivating and Amin Maalouf made it hard for the reader to halt for a pause.

هناك 5 تعليقات:

Anis يقول...

I've read "Les croisades vues par les arabes" another book of Amine Maalouf and it's a great book!

Imed Chihi يقول...

Ahlan Anis,

Indeed, I've seen the book but didn't have a chance to read it yet. Your appreciation is teasing me into reading it.

-Imed

Iskander يقول...

I liked this book, but a loved those one by the same author:

1- The Gardens of Light
2- Crusades Through Arab Eyes
3- Samarkand

Sure you'll love them too... Enjoy

غير معرف يقول...

i am reading leon lafricain m it is a nice book but it is told that samarkand is the best amine maalouf it is a good think to read some arabic books after the europeen and american monopoly

غير معرف يقول...

Hi Imed, I am FAROUK DOGHRI. I didn't find your e-mail address, so here's mine : farouk.doghri@bccegypt.com
About books, I finished reading "عمارة يعقوبيان" and it is great. See you soon.