Thursday, October 29, 2009

Leo Africanus

The section of Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus and takes place between December fifth and fourteenth, 1489. It gives the account of a dysfunctional family’s beginning. It was the month of Ramadan, which fell in mid summer that year. Tensions were rising rapidly and quarrels were popping up all around Granada. The town was worn out from civil war and faced threats from unbelievers that put the fate of all Muslims at risk. The family begins with a woman, Salma and a man, Muhammad. These two were cousins, who were engaged to be married when they became adults. They finally married and were together for over four years before Salma was able to conceive.

During that time span, Muhammad began to lose interest in his wife because of her infertility. The rumors which were floating around were finally confirmed when Muhammad returned home with another woman. Her name was Warda and he acquired her from a soldier. Salma’s barrenness was finally solved when she was presented with a special elixir to put in a glass of orgeat syrup. It was given to her by a woman named Gaudy Sarah and was intended to entice Muhammad to come to Salma. Finally, with Sarah’s help Salma became pregnant. However, Warda also became pregnant, causing Muhammad to rejoice at the thought of having two sons. The race was on between the women for the birth of the first son. Wada gave birth first, to a baby girl named Mariam. Muhammad barely looked at his first born child, disappointed that Mariam was born a girl. Salam’s gave birth to a baby boy, reuniting her with Muhammad, who ended up only caring for this section of his family.

I found this multiple family situation to be very interesting. While I was reading, all that kept popping up in my head was some sort of throw back edition of Jerry Springer. We have a couple who is arranged to be married as children; the only catch is that they are cousins. Now, they finally get married but over time the husband begins losing interest in his wife. He goes out and picks up some other woman, who is considerable more beautiful then his current wife and begins to keep her as a mistress. The husband then proceeds to have children with both women, abandoning his mistress and first born child, which was a girl to be with his wife and his first born son. These circumstances really painted the picture for me. All I kept seeing was Muhammad on stage being grilled with questions while sitting between his two families.

My question is does anyone else get this picture in their head or am I just nuts? Maybe it’s a different show for you like Maury?

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