Leo Africanus (novel)

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Leo Africanus
First edition book cover
First paperback edition cover
Author Amin Maalouf
Original title Léon, l'Africain
Translator Peter Sluglett
Country Lebanon
Language French
Genre Historical novel
Publisher New Amsterdam Books
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 360 pp
ISBN 1-56131-022-0
OCLC 24502286
843 20
LC Class PQ3979.2.M28 L413 1991

Leo Africanus is a 1986 novel written in French by Amin Maalouf, depicting the life of a historical Renaissance-era traveler, Leo Africanus. Since very little is actually known about his life, the book fills in the historical episodes, placing Leo in the company of many of the key historical figures of his time, including three popes, (Leo X, Adrian VI, and Pope Clement VII), two Ottoman emperors (Selim I and Suleiman the Magnificent), with appearances by Boabdil (the last Moorish king of Granada), Askia Mohammad I of the Songhai Empire, Ferdinand of Spain, and Francis I of France, as well as the artist Raphael and other key political and cultural figures of the period.

Leo Africanus is Maalouf's first novel. It received high praise. It is written in the form of a memoir.

Plot introduction[edit]

The book is divided into four sections, each organized year by year to describe a key period of Leo Africanus's life, and each named after the city that played the major role in his life at the time: Granada, Fez, Cairo, and Rome. While filled with biographical hypotheses and historical speculations, the book offers a vivid description of the Renaissance world, with the decline of the traditional Muslim kingdoms and the hope inspired by the Ottoman Empire, as it grew to threaten Europe and restore Muslim unity.

The book is based on life experiences which took Leo Africanus almost everywhere in the Islamic Mediterranean, from southern Morocco to Arabia, and across the Sahara.

Major themes[edit]

This novel explores confrontations between Islam and Christianity as well as the mutual influence that the two religions had on each other and on the people they governed.

Further reading[edit]