Trickster Travels: In Search of Leo Africanus, A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds by Natalie Zemon Davis - review by Jason Goodwin

Jason Goodwin

The Adventures of a Crafty Convert

Trickster Travels: In Search of Leo Africanus, A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds

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Natalie Zemon Davis is best known for her book The Return of Martin Guerre, a study of identity and dissimulation in the late medieval world which was turned into a successful film. Trickster Travels revisits some of those themes, moving from Islamic Spain to Morocco, Egypt and papal Rome at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Al-Hasan al-Wazzan was born to a Muslim family in Granada in the late 1480s, the last years of Islamic rule in Spain. Granada was always to be an evocative and bitter memory for the Andalusian émigrés who found their way to Fez; al-Hasan, Davis says, remembered it in the colour of Spanish tiles, and in the cut of his mother’s knee-length white veil, which she wore in the street. 

Memory and exile were to play a huge role in al-Hasan’s life, as he went on to crisscross some of the deepest divides in the political and religious world of his time. By the age of sixteen, al-Hasan was travelling on behalf of the sultan of Fez, gathering the material

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