Amin Maalouf’s novel Leo Africanus can be described as novel depending on an actual sixteenth-century Spanish-born Muslim geographer and writer delivered under the name Hasan al-Wazzan. The author shows the reader clear insights in the conflicts involving the Muslim universe (whose impact in Europe was in that case waning) which of Christianity (which reasserted control over his native The country of spain and to which usually he started to be a somewhat unwilling servant).

The theme of the title character’s life is issue and misfortune, which appear to plague him from early childhood.

Given birth to in 1488 to a rich Muslim family in Proyectil, Spain, he witnesses like a small kid the Catholic victory within the ruling yet weakened Muslim elites, and then a influx of vindicte and intolerance against not merely Muslims nevertheless also the Jews, with also were living peacefully in Spain with Christians for centuries. Hasan (the name this individual uses through his your life, except when in service for the Pope) illustrates some of this kind of by mentioning how associates of the diverse religions communicate and how several cultural exchange occurs.

For example , when talking about dates, he frequently identifies Christian and Muslim vacations in tandem, showing their mutual acceptance: “It all took place on the 9th day from the holy month of Ramadan, or, somewhat… on St . John’s Time, the twenty-fourth of 06, since Mihrajan was famous not according to the Muslim year nevertheless following the Christian calendar (Maalouf, 1989, g. 63).

In this article, Maalouf makes clear that Islam was then the considerably more tolerant faith, accepting aspects of Judaism and Christianity that the Catholic Chapel refused to permit. Because Christianity and Islam had been fighting intended for territory, intolerance was an instrument of control and oppression, and the victorious Spaniards had to qualms regarding driving out or murdering Jews and Muslims who refused to take forced conversions to Christianity.

His relatives, deprived of its wealth, flees to get the North African associated with Fez, their current address as asylum seekers under the care of his i implore you to uncle, who have provides for his education. As he comes of age, he shows an extraordinary ability to watch and understand the peoples and places he encounters ” a gift this individual sharpens when ever, as a teen, he occurs with his abundant, well-connected granddad on a diplomatic excursion to Timbuktu.

For instance , he produces of Sijilmassa, a once-thriving city on the path to Timbuktu: “Of its wall space, once so high, only a few portions remain, half-ruined, and covered with grass and tree. Of its human population, there remain only numerous hostile races… [who] appear merciless toward each other [and] deserve their very own fate (Maalouf, 1989, p. 157). Though he can not intolerant of peoples different from himself, he also does not self conscious from passing judgments upon unfortunate or perhaps blighted locations, though his own life is full of wrong doings, he welcomes fate’s unreliable nature, which in turn perhaps maintains him through his problems.

Hasan’s adult life is generally unstable and rife with misfortune, which will seems to be the norm in a world where very little other than hard luck is definitely guaranteed. After his uncle passes away, he results to Spass to work in a hospice for the sick and insane, unites a rather plain cousin (despite his lengthy relationship with Hiba, a slave mistress), later becomes a prosperous merchant, and appears to live a somewhat regular life. However , he could be not destined to enjoy a well balanced, uneventful existence.

When he starts his organization career, his mother constitutes a prediction that seems to forecast the way of his life: “Many men find out the whole globe while looking for only to help to make their fortune. But since for you, my personal son, you can stumble with your treasure whenever you seek to find out the world (Maalouf, 1989, s. 187). Indeed, fortune ” therefore strong a presence inside the novel that this almost seems like a character ” intervenes wonderful life is once again turbulent. When he turns into embroiled in the childhood good friend (and brother-in-law) Harun’s story to avenge his sis Mariam’s confinement to a leper colony, the authorities exude Hasan by Fez and thieves while travelling rob him of his fortune. In addition , he’s forced to sacrifice his mistress, Hiba, to be able to regain several of his wealth.

However , his destiny is always to discover the globe, which certainly is why modern readers even know of his existence. Always astute and insightful, Hasan compiles his observations during his many journeys, forming the foundation for his lasting well known as a beginning geographer and expert about sub-Saharan Africa. This individual travels throughout the continent’s upper and central regions and, when speaking of other writers’ ignorance of Africa, claims, “I me, who was only the previous of the travellers, know the brands of 60 black kingdoms… from the Niger to the Earth. Some have never made an appearance in any book, but We would not be telling the truth merely would claims to have discovered these people myself, as I only followed the normal route with the caravans (Maalouf, 1989, g. 216).

He moves to Cairo (then underneath Ottoman European rule) to restart his often-disrupted your life, commenting that “I was suddenly certain that after the tempest which acquired destroyed my fortune a fresh life was awaiting me personally in this land of Egypt, a life of enthusiasm, danger and honour (Maalouf, 1989, g. 218). Here, this individual again locates himself around the wrong side of destiny when he unites into the Turkish sultan’s family and supports all of them in their political maneuverings, in the vain desire that they will retake Granada with the intention of Islam.

He dreams his entire life of his birthplace and the words and phrases of a visiting delegation from your sultan create the naïve faith that he can come back: “A superb Muslim empire is in the technique of coming to lifestyle in the East, and we on the western part of the country should stretch out our palm to that. Up to now, we have been put through the law from the unbelievers (Maalouf, 1989, l. 257). However , this kind of scheme likewise goes wrong and he is enslaved by simply Italian cutthroat buccaneers, who give him to Pope Leo By.

This phase of Hasan’s life is an unfamiliar twist of fate, through which apparent tragedy turns into wonderful luck. The pontiff, seeing that the learned, sophisticated Hasan is not a ordinary captive, employs him as a guitar tutor of Arabic and requires him to learn Latina, Turkish, and lessons inside the Christian faith. Hasan deems this “a refined form of required labour… [and] proof of [the Pope’s] personal enthusiastic affinity for me (Maalouf, 1989, g. 294).

The outcome of this gentle captivity is definitely Description of Africa, a book describing his many travels in a country with which Europeans were continue to largely not familiar. This individual wins his freedom but again finds him self on the wrong side of a larger personal conflict (this time in the Catholic Church), so he escapes Rome for Tunisia, where he can easily openly practice Islam again. In conclusion, he recommends the reader being himself when confronted with adversity, declaring, “Wherever you are, a few will want to inquire abuout about your epidermis or the prayers. Beware of fun their predatory instincts… beware of twisting before the wide range!  (Maalouf, 1989, s. 360). Though he has kept his Muslim faith inwardly intact, his ability to adapt and “go with the flow preserves him.

Without home on the stage, Maalouf makes clear to the reader that in this shaky, uncertain old world, Fortune plays a very strong function in everyday life. Indeed, Hasan witnesses a lot of calamity in his life, his birthplace is usually seized to make repressive by simply Spanish Catholics, he great family discover their riches rise and vanish frequently, he unites twice and loses the two wives (the first dead young, while the second abandons him after his enslavement), and he’s forced to seek his fortunes elsewhere repeatedly in his lifestyle.

He accepts the fact that he is intended to live on the move and takes tiny for granted, seemingly aware that his fortunes can be reversed at any time (and frequently are). However , he never turns into embittered, this individual accepts his fate although laments, “Such is the wisdom of the Most High (Maalouf, 1989, p. 214). His faith will not waver over the story, and when Christian believers abduct him and push his conversion to Catholicism, he employs but maintains his innermost religious beliefs to him self. This individual excels as being a chameleon and thus survives.

His second wife comments on his tendency to visit and disturb his individual life, asking, “What element are you manufactured from that you accept the loss of one town following another, one homeland following another, one woman after another, without fighting, without regretting, without looking back again?  (Maalouf, 1989, p. 261). This individual responds by telling her that “life is only a crossing.

We go nowhere fast, I desire nothing My spouse and i cling to practically nothing, I have hope in my interest for living, in my instinct to search for delight, as well as in Providence (Maalouf, 1989, p. 261). Without a doubt, in this exchange, Maalouf gives the reader with all the essence of Hasan’s character. He is well aware of life’s transience and thus can be passionate just about his religion, though he seeks riches and happiness, he wastes little time mourning the loss of both and looks in advance to “the final Place where simply no man is actually a stranger prior to face of the Creator (Maalouf, 1989, p. 360).

Leo Africanus is more than a fictionalized memoir. It is a classic fish-out-of-water account, illustrating how this well-informed, well-connected Muslim merchant, traveller, and college student finds verso and radical changes in his life by several becomes but gets used to to each. In addition , that demonstrates just how people of these era had been very much at Fate’s whim, little could be taken for granted in such shaky times, nevertheless the narrator never loses hope in the “Most High,  the Goodness to whom this individual turns for sustenance.

In somewhat formal prose that you suspects was the norm to get educated people of that time, Maalouf would not impose a modern day viewpoint but offers a reasonable, compassionate, historically-aware portrayal of both Muslim society and one of the more uncommon figures within just it. The story of Hasan al-Wazzan is, above all else, the tale associated with an accomplished scholar and a consummate survivor who hardly ever forgot who also he was, the culture that produced him, or the deity that confirmed him whim amidst the world’s turbulent flow.


Maalouf, A. (1989). Leo Africanus. Chicago: Fresh Amsterdam Books.

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