Friday, October 30, 2009

Leo Africanus: Commentary 1

This week we began reading Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf, which is a much different read from our past two books. Told in first person, we are giving fictional accounts of what life was like in Grenada during the 15th century. Hassan, our narrator, shares stories with us as they were told/passed down to him by his older family members. In this beginning section of the book, we read about hot topics in Grenada such as: women, alcohol, religion, and of course – war.

Because of its religious diversity (Christianity, Muslim and Judaism), Grenada seems almost as the perfect setting for this story. With such a widespread religious composition, I have to admit I was surprised when I read about Hassan’s father’s affair with a Christian slave girl, Warda. Why am I surprised? I guess it may be ignorant of me, but I would assume that in a city so religious-heavy – I wouldn’t expect one to have affairs, but I suppose I’m wrong. But I have to say – I was even more appalled to learn that his father’s wife, Salma, was also his cousin! Now I know – things of this nature were more common during this period of time, (and again this may be ignorant of me) but I think that is completely wrong, in more ways than one.

What I wanted to know more about would have to have been about the religious diversity. And maybe this will be covered later in the book, but what were the percentages of people in each religious category? I would like to know, how did they religiously interact with each other? Surely, some religions felt their religion was superior to others – how did this effect culture in Grenada during the 15th century?

1 comment:

  1. These are good questions. I think that in Granada, most people were Muslim, that is why Hasan's father was able to keep a Christian slave without any problems; Jews and Christians were minorities. I think that Maalouf says that the interaction between the religions was mostly peaceful, and we see a great difference when the Christian Spaniards do their "reconquest" of Granada: they force people to convert to Christianity.