Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf

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Synopsis

"I, Hasan the son of Muhammad the weigh-master, I, Jean-Leon de Medici, circumcised at the hand of a barber and baptized at the hand of a pope, I am now called the African, but I am not from Africa, nor from Europe, nor from Arabia. I am also called the Granadan, the Fassi, the Zayyati, but I come from no country, from no city, no tribe. I am the son of the road, my country is the caravan, my life the most unexpected of voyages."

Thus wrote Leo Africanus, in his fortieth year, in this imaginary autobiography of the famous geographer, adventurer, and scholar Hasan al-Wazzan, who was born in Granada in 1488. His family fled the Inquisition and took him to the city of Fez, in North Africa. Hasan became an itinerant merchant, and made many journeys to the East, journeys rich in adventure and observation. He was captured by a Sicilian pirate and taken back to Rome as a gift to Pope Leo X, who baptized him Johannes Leo. While in Rome, he wrote the first trilingual dictionary (Latin, Arabic and Hebrew), as well as his celebrated Description of Africa, for which he is still remembered as Leo Africanus.
 

About Amin Maalouf

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Amin Maalouf was born in Beirut to a Christian family. He worked as an international reporter before the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975 and he relocated to Paris. Maalouf's novels and book-length essays have been translated into nearly forty languages, and he has also written four opera librettos. His awards include the Prix Goncourt for his 1993 novel The Rock of Tanios and Spain's Prince of Asturias Award for Literature in 2010.
 
Published March 25, 1998 by New Amsterdam Books. 369 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Fiction

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Hassan leaves Cairo to take the baby to safety, then is kidnapped by a pirate and brought to Rome as a gift for Pope Leo X.

Jan 16 1988 | Read Full Review of Leo Africanus

Publishers Weekly

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Through the adventures of a wise, courageous traveler, this excellent historical novel limns Islamic culture at the time of Columbus. (July)

Mar 23 1998 | Read Full Review of Leo Africanus

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