Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leo Africanus- Blog 1

The first part of Leo Africanus by Maalouf that we were instructed to read was very intriguing and was interesting for me to read. The book opens up very sad because Salma, the mother, was struggling to have children but she finally got pregnant. However, her husband, Muhammad, had gotten another woman, Warda, pregnant too. Muhammad was with Warda as well because he did not feel attracted to Salma because she was unable to have children for so long. This depressed Salma until Sarah, the fortune teller came, and told Salma to drink some of her potion and she will become the new mistress to Muhammad. Muhammad was only interested in having a boy and Sarah told Salma that she has gotten uglier during her pregnancy which meant she should be having a boy. Warda ended up giving birth to a baby girl and Muhammad wanted nothing to do with the child. Salma had a boy and there was a large celebration being thrown to celebrate the birth of Muhammad's first son.

During the celebration, Abu l'Hasan tells the story of how the last celebration was when Salma was extremely young. The last celebration was rained out by Noah's flood and Salma got lost in the flood. The remembrance of the last flood brought back many unwanted memories to Salma.
A civil war erupted in Grenada, where the family lived, and Abu was removed from power.

Everyone was traveling with the uncle when he tells the story which brings back memories of when they used to live in Grenada. The Year of the Amulets was very dangerous due to the dangers hanging over the city and also because there was a nursing baby and most nursing babies did not survive. During The Year of Astaghfirullah, Shaikh was made fun of for repeating phrases in sermons, but in the siege of Grenada, no one made fun of him because the Most High would punish them. The Year of the Fall was marked by the heavy snow that covered Grenada which made food very scarce. Muhammad's family was well off and had plenty of food to eat, but there was a loss of jobs all around and the people in the city had no means of escape. Attacks were however reduced because of the winter. The peace treaty was also said to be underway.
Sarah delivers a book of fortune to Muhammad which he studies. He tells Sarah she and her family must leave the land at once. She tells Salma she is going to stay but a few days later she decides to leave. Some people stayed in Grenada and were held as hostages to Ferdinand. Then, Grenada fell permanently. Sarah chose the path of exile and Salma's family was said to be next.

This book seems very interesting to read, a book that I will most likely not be able to put down as I read on because it is written in the form of a memoir. The story is sad, but more intriguing to read about than just facts in a book. The book tells an actual story of Leo Africanus and his travels during the Renaissance era.


  1. personally i would much rather not read about a fictional interpretation on the life of a real individual. If I were Leo Africanus I would be livid that someone is saying these things that didn't happen to me. I bet he's rolling over in his grave right now. I know I would be.
    I do admit that it is a very clever way to learn history, however I am a history major so I like piecing together historical facts into a broader context based on my own understanding and interpretation.
    Oh well, can't win them all.. enjoy the book

  2. I think Bethany has a point; if the facts are there, why not represent them in a historical manner? I see the value in learning fact over fiction, however I feel that fictional writing can sometimes enhance the meanings and themes of history. Maalouf chose to create a novel about Leo Africanus to do just so. Gabby is drawn to this historical character because of Maalouf's language, something that cannot be taken from an encyclopedic type publication.