Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week 10 Make Up

In Book lll of "Leo Africanus," the question of identity is discussed. In the book, Hasan takes a new name when he is exiled. If you think about it, our names define who we are. It's our label, what we respond to, who we are know as. To change a name is to change a person's entire identity. So when Hasan changes his name to Leo Africanus, he changes his identity in a way, to become a man of travel instead of a man of nation or tribe. His wish is to put aside the influence of culture and become an unbiased man, able to travel and not be burdened by his past. In my opinion, that is an impossible goal. A person is founded and grounded by what he/she learns in childhood. It is entirely impossible to set that part of yourself aside and pretend to have unbiased accounts and views about certain things when culture will always be a part of you.

Another thing that struck me was the Pope's blatant favoritism towards Leo/Hasan. What made him so special that he was practically treated like a son by the Pope, and regardless of the fact that he was imprisoned, the Pope still took great care in providing for Leo/Hasan's needs and education. The obvious motive would be that the Pope was hoping that when Leo/Hasan got baptized, he would return to his home and bring numerous converts to the Catholic church. But was that the only reason, or did the Holy one have an ulterior motive?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it a) a much easier read that all the other non-fiction narratives assigned earlier on in the semester. The author weaves a riveting tale through which history is also taught, and I found that I retained the same, if not more, information than I normally would with a textbook. It also puts into stark contrast the ways our society today and the society back then clashes. Issues like sexism, polygomy, cultural identity...I would not normally think of those things on a daily basis, but reading about it triggered my thoughts on it and therefore, I thought the book and overall enlightening experience.

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