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ختنت، أنا حسن بن محمد الوازن، يوحنا ليون دومديتشي، بيد مزين وعمدت بيد احد البابوات، وادعى اليوم الافريقي ولكنني لست من افريقية ولا من اوروبة ولا من بلاد العرب واعرف ايضا بالغرناطي والفاسي والزياتي، ولكنني لم اصدر عن اي بلد ولا عن اي مدينة، ولا عن اي قبيلة فانا ابن السبيل، وطني هو القافلة وحياتي هي اقل الرحلات توقعالقد عرف معصماي على التوالي دغدغات الحرير واهانات الصوف، ذهب ?. Leo Africanus belongs to several very old traditions of storytelling It is epic heroic and joins a long line of contemporary political commentaries hidden beneath a thin veil of time and space It is a tale based on the life of what we re almost sure is a real historical figure Leo Africanus or al Hassan ibn Muhammad al Wazan as his original name likely was was a Muslim born in Granada about the time of the Reconuista His story begins with the voices of others speaking to him telling him who he is we follow his family into the large exile community of Granadans in Fez Morroco and then slowly follow Hasan himself as his story graduaally starts to become his own We re given a rich wonderfully filled out picture of the Mediterranean and North Africa at the turn of the 16th century from Al Andalus to the Maghrib from Timbuktu to the Sahara downtown Cairo to wild independent mountain territories of Africa Barbary pirate controlled port towns to Ottoman Constantinople to Italy in the prime of the Renaissance This is the great strength of the book The reader is given a much rounded picture of this era than is often typical in the West one that does not care what the hell Christopher thinks he can find in the West Indies or the martial suabbles of Henry of England Maalouf is excellent at showing us a world balanced and mixed between East and West where it was a very real possibility that a Sultan might rule in Rome or the Castilians might decide to create an empire in North Africa Each little place visited has it s own proud history that matters very much and who are you over there to think that yours matters He does a wonderful job at showing us how absolutely meaningless any kind of border we create is whether physical or mental What s great about LeoHasanwhoever he is at the moment is that he seems both the essence of his time in the thick of each development and yet an escapee from history able to look like many different people have many different names as with all exiles lit this book is all about the names while remaining himself despite it all Maalouf s addition to the beatitudes is Blessed are the outsiders a blessing that his main character is both tortured and exonerated by It is hard not to be moved by Maalouf s movingly expressed ultimate mission of tolerance and peace especially when we know that the 40 years of bloody pointless absurd conflict that Leo Africanus witnesses is a stand in for an ongoing contemporary conflict that has lasted than 40 years now and shows no signs of stopping Despite being published in 1986 this book remains sadly as relevant today as the day it was publishedHowever And it s a very unfortunate however I do have to detract some points for the technical construction of this novel It is an epic as I said and since it is trying to give us a history of 40 years of this area of the world our main character is reuired to be in a lot of places and meet a lot of people We re never in one place for very long which for one thing makes the story rather disjointed and underdeveloped and for another a real person would need a miracle to make it happen And so he gets miracles Lots of them His progress is frankly ridiculously unbelievable It reuires every other person he meets to take a special liking to him and give him amazing gifts money opportunities that allow him to progress to the next unbelievable meeting he sees everyone from Raphael of Urbino and Pope Leo to the Ottoman Sultan the pirate Barbarossa and kings from lands near and far Unfortunately our character is not at all developed one assumes due to time constraints in getting him all over Africa and Europe so we have no idea why he s so special and nor are we given much of a reason to care We are supposed to like him as he voices a number of modern approved political opinions but the dispersal of these feels cheap And also I just have to note his character does a number of despicable things that are hard to forgive such as repeatedly abandoning his wives and children and even on one occasion having sex with his wife on their wedding night despite the fact that she faints away that the prospect she s uite sheltered and religious When he s taken to task for this by one of his wives we get some answer about how you just can t tie me down baby that s supposed to tie into his exile rootless nature but really just reads as a cheap excuse for him to get on with the next scene of his life since Maalouf has said all he wants to say involving the particular storyline that woman is a part of There are one or two developed characters HasanLeo s best friend Hurun for example one of his wives and at one point his father who serves as of a representative sample but it still works but these are picked up and put down as our Hero needs them to continue on I love exile lit don t get me wrong but it is at it s most powerful where we believe that the main character is exiled from something this particular character doesn t seem to have much of a stake in anything he s able to abandon each thing as necessary and we rarely see him carry over any wounds from one book of his story to another It doesn t help that the story is told in a very impersonal tone a tone that struck me as fairly unbelievable most of the time after all the story is meant to be him writing down his life for his young son and only in the and here s the message kids interludes between the volumes of his story do we see any of that like the author himself sometimes forgets his format I didn t feel at all emotionally attached to this book and I really wanted to It s just such a shameThis book should ve either been much longer or found a way to give us it s messages without the Where s Waldo round Maalouf he had to write before he could make the kind of universal statements he wanted to make here In the end I felt like I was being called to witness something when what I really wanted and what he gave us in those all too brief glimpses was to get to know someone who had witnessed and survived

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Léon l'Africain

?امراء واغلال العبيد وازاحت اصابعي الاف الحجب ولونت شفتاي بحمرة الخجل آلاف العذارى، وشهدت عيناي احتضار مدن وفناء امبراطورياتولسوف تسمع في فمي العربية والتركية والقشتالية والبربرية والعبرية واللاتينية والعامية الايطالية لان جميع اللغات وكل الصلوات ملك يدي، ولكنني لا انتمي الى اي منها فانا لله وللتراب، واليهما راجع في يوم قريبوستبقى بعدي يا ولدي، وستحمل ذكراي، وستقرأ كتب?. Although the premise of this book based on the travels of the actual Leo Africanus was what drew me to it it really suffered from a disjointed plot Leo s travels are what makes him uniue he is one of the few historical figures who demonstrated the blend of Muslim Jewish and Christian faiths around the fall of Granada Yet the reader gets almost no sense of the society in which he fits His numerous travels seem to have no connection to one another and the characters around him suffer from a serious case of being two dimensional I kept reading to try and see what I was missing figuring it was me who just wasn t getting into the story enough or not paying enough attention Well having finished it I realized that it wasn t my fault as a reader there simply just wasn t enough of a plot to hold the book together Which is a crime as the travels of this man could certainly have filled than the scant 300 pages of the book Leo Africanus life is one of the most perfect out of history to be turned into historical fiction and it s upsetting that it was botched so badly

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? وعندها سترى هذا المشهد ابوك في زي اهل نابولي على متن هذه السفينة التي تعيده الى الشاطئ الافريقي وهو منهمك في الكتابة وكأنه تاجر يعد لائحة حساباته في نهاية رحلة بحرية طويلةاليس هذا ما افعله تقريبا ماذا ربحت، ماذا خسرت، ماذا اقول للديان الاعظم؟ لقد اقرضني اربعين عاما بددتها في الاسفار، فعشت الحكمة في روما، والصبابة في القاهرة، والغم في فاس، وما زلت اعيش طهري وبراءتي في غرناط. 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 fianc e 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


10 thoughts on “Léon l'Africain

  1. says:

    Check this out'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 fr

  2. says:

    Leo Africanus belongs to several very old traditions of storytelling It is epic heroic and joins a long line of contemporary political commentaries hidden beneath a thin veil of time and space It is a tale based on the life of what we’re alm

  3. says:

    So good I changed my name by deed poll

  4. says:

    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 land

  5. says:

    Joannes Leo Africanus alias al Hasan ibn Muhammad al Wazzan al Fasi whew that name is longer than mine was a 16th century traveller

  6. says:

    Although the premise of this book based on the travels of the actual Leo Africanus was what drew me to it it really suffered from a disjointed plot Leo's travels are what makes him uniue he is one of the few hist

  7. says:

    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

  8. says:

    6 MAR 2016 Asma connected me to another book about Leo Many thanks Asma Trickster Travels SEP 2016 5 star fabulous Reading about Leo's adventures reminded me a bit of Walter Mitty could Leo really have been in all these places met all these people and experienced all he wrote about? Or perhaps he built upon others' stories

  9. says:

    Beautiful imaginative enjoyable to read

  10. says:

    Overall this one was a good reading experience except for when Leo started to talk about his relationship with his lovers In different format of story telling what he was revealing probably acceptable but in this