Thursday, November 12, 2009

Leo Africanus - Blog 3

This section of Leo Africanus begins with Ahmad (the Lame) revealing his plan of betrayal so that he can eventually take over the lands. The Zarwali, who was exiled based on Hasan’s suggestion, is then attacked and killed by Harun, Hasan’s childhood friend and brother-in-law. Hasan is assumed to be a cohort of Harun’s, which leads to his own exile, which occurs after the death of Fatima and their infant son. Hasan and Hiba head back to her tribe, where Hiba’s tribesmen buy her back (which gains money for Hasan). Hasan left, alone, for Cairo, where he pseudo-inherited a house and met his next wife, a Circassian woman named Nur. She revealed to him the existence of her son, a boy named Bayazid, who is the last of a line of princes who will be able to “make the throne of the Ottomans tremble” (245). Hasan’s period of exile ended so he, Nur, and Bayazid returned to his family at Fez. Hasan learned of the death of his father and set off with Salma, Nur, Sarwat, and Bayazid to track down Harun. While carrying out orders from Harun, Hasan learned of a plot in which Sultan Salim was secretly planning on attacking Cairo instead of Persia. When Nur found out about this, she insisted that they head back to Cairo to warn her people. Nur was pregnant once they reached Cairo again, which prevented them from leaving. The Grand Turk came and occupied the city, but Tumanbay was staunchly opposed. Tumanbay attempted to regain the city, but in the end, he was hanged for his efforts. Hasan decided that a pilgrimage to Mecca was called for. Bayazid’s identity was nearly discovered twice on their return trip, but he remained protected by anonymity. Hasan was actually then abducted and transported as a slave to Rome, where he remained in captivity for some time. The Pope himself saw that Hasan’s education was taken care of, and Hasan also learned about Martin Luther during this time. After his baptism with the name John-Leo, Hasan is again free.

I found the following phrase the most interesting one of this entire section: “Even if we could pardon your brother-in-law for what he has done, how could we pardon him for the things we accuse him of having done?” (251). This seems to be common throughout history. Once society or governments find a scapegoat, that person is blamed for anything and everything. Even if they are truly innocent of all crimes, they are built up to be horrible in the public image. This allows the government to hold someone up as the anti-citizen so that everyone else is aware of how they should not behave. This, to me, seems related to later in the section when the Ottoman soldiers began arresting anyone by accusing them of being a Circassian in disguise. The truth is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the perception of those in power. It basically comes down to arbitrary assignment of blame.

Although this was only briefly mentioned, I would have liked to know more about the practice of female “excision” in Cairo. When Nur gives birth to a daughter, the midwife offers to do this operation, which Hasan politely declines by saying that it is not a practice that is followed in his country. The woman looks surprised and upset by this fact, but I cannot tell if that is because she came expecting to do the operation and was disappointed that she would not be able to, or if she disapproved of Hasan’s daughter not having an excision. However, if she disapproved that strongly, I do not understand why she would not have made an argument in favor of it. Why did this practice came into being in the first place? I understand that it had a religious aspect, but I would have liked it to have been better explained in the story.

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