Friday, October 30, 2009

Leo Africanus 1

There is nothing like first person perspective to help you appreciate history. Even though the story is fictional, the fact that it is based on a real person's life and has some historical accuracy makes it so much better than a text book for me. I found it interesting that the story started out well before the main character's birth, and the fact that a women's perspective was given is something new to this course. His mother Salma gave us some unique insight into the events of her own youth and the way women were treated and were forced to survive in Muslim society. Even though she was really a second class citizen, her interaction with her brother and the fact that her son is relying so heavily on her testimony shows that she was a strong and intelligent woman.
Aside from the role that women played in society in the 15th century, another thing I took away from this reading was the way politics worked under the sultan and the interactions between Christians and Muslims. Hassan's uncle provided the best perspective on this matter, by discussing the different ways that people reacted to the sultans. The first sultan, tyrannical and hated, was complained about very privately in ambiguous terms because people were in fear of their lives. The second sultan, who was less feared, was complained of much more openly- "Our people are merciless towards sovereigns who do not behave towards them as sovereigns" (24). The people did not care for this sultan either even though they had deliberately put him on the throne.
At a gathering at the sultan's palace, Hassan's uncle is involved in the debate over whether the city of Granada should try to resist Castile or simply surrender to minimize damage, since the sultan is apparently traitorous anyways. Eventually the decision is made to surrender, but rather than being spared, the Castilians force all of the Muslims of Granada to flee, thus beginning Hassan's many travels. Clearly the significance of book one is that his childhood and youth had a huge impact on Hassan- the details of Muslim life, the religious conflict he sees, his forced immigration and his studies at the university in Fez all shaped him into a world traveler and intellectual.

No comments:

Post a Comment