Transcript: Natalie Zemon Davis on her book Trickster Travels | Jun 24, 2006

Natalie Zemon Davis stands behind a wooden podium in a bookstore and addresses an unseen audience.
A logo on screen reads "U of T Book Store. www.uoftbookstore.com"
Natalie is in her late fifties, with short gray hair. She's wearing a khaki shirt and silver hoop earrings.

She says I FIRST
CAME ACROSS A BOOK CALLED,
THE DESCRIPTION OF
AFRICA,
MANY YEARS AGO, WHEN I WAS A
GRADUATE STUDENT DOING A
DOCTORAL DISSERTATION ON
PROTESTANTISM AND THE PRINTERS
OF LYONS, FRANCE, OR LYONS,
FRANCE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Natalie Zemon Davis. Author, 'Trickster travels.' Hart House Library, U of T. May 15, 2006."

Natalie continues ONE OF
THOSE PRINTERS, ONE OF THOSE
PROTESTANT PRINTERS, HAD
PUBLISHED A BOOK CALLED
THE
DESCRIPTION OF AFRICA,
BY A MAN NAMED LEON L'AFRICAIN,
JEAN LEO THE AFRICAN, A BOOK BY
AN INDIGENOUS INFORMANT.
A BEAUTIFUL FOLIO EDITION FROM
A RARE BOOK LIBRARY, WITH
BEAUTIFUL PICTURES -- IMAGINARY
PICTURES, DONE, NOT BY THE
AUTHOR, BUT BY THE BROTHER OF
THE PROTESTANT PRINTER.
AND I THOUGHT, WOW, WHAT A BOOK IS THIS?
BUT AT THAT TIME, THE KIND OF
HISTORY THAT I WAS DOING WAS A
KIND OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
HISTORY, VERY ROOTED IN FRENCH
HISTORY -- NEW THINGS ABOUT
SOCIAL RELATIONS, ABOUT
CULTURAL RELATIONS.
I WANTED TO WORK ON FRENCH
PEASANTS AND FRENCH WOMEN AND
FRENCH ARTISANS, AND THIS
FASCINATING BOOK SEEMED ON THE
MARGINS.
IT DIDN'T SEEM LIKE THE KIND OF
CREATIVE HISTORY THAT I COULD
DO AT THAT POINT.
WELL THAT WAS WAY BACK IN THE
LATE 1950s.
THE 1990s, THE WORLD HAS REALLY
CHANGED.
WE'RE ALL DEEPLY CONCERNED
ABOUT COLONIAL, POST COLONIAL
ISSUES, WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT
ISSUES OF...
I WAS CONCERNED, WE'RE ALL
CONCERNED ABOUT THE PROBLEMS
POSED TO US BY ISSUES OF
TIGHTLY DRAWN BOUNDARIES AROUND
RELIGIONS, TIGHTLY DRAWN
BOUNDARIES AROUND NATIONS,
CLAIMS FOR LAND THAT GO BACK
CENTURIES, LAND GIVEN BY GOD.
CLAIMS ABOUT IDENTITIES OF THE
SELF, WITH VERY TIGHT
BOUNDARIES.
IT WAS A TIME IN WHICH MANY
HISTORIANS, LITERARY PEOPLE AND
SOCIAL CRITICS AND POLITICAL
FIGURES WERE BEGINNING TO THINK
CRITICALLY ABOUT EXCHANGE,
ABOUT MIXTURES, ABOUT THINGS
THAT WOULD BREAK THOSE
BOUNDARIES, ABOUT THINGS THAT
WOULD HELP US LOOK FOR
METISAGE CULTURELLES,
TO USE THE FRENCH TERMS THINGS
THAT WOULD ALLOW US TO THINK
ABOUT HYBRID CULTURES, THINGS
THAT WOULD ALLOW US TO LOOK AT,
NOT ONLY THE VERY IMPORTANT
BINARY THAT STEVE HAS TALKED
ABOUT, OF RESISTANCE OF POWER,
OF OPPOSITION, BUT WAYS IN
WHICH CULTURES CAN CROSS, EVEN
IN THE COURSE OF ALL OF THAT.
WELL I BEGAN TO THINK I WANTED
TO WORK ON FIGURES OF THAT KIND
AND ON SITUATIONS OF THAT KIND,
AND THIS MAN, LEO AFRICANIS,
CAME BACK TO ME.
THIS MAN WHO, IT TURNED OUT,
HAD LIVED IN EUROPE FOR A TIME
AS A CHRISTIAN, BUT YET WAS A
MUSLIM AND HAD WRITTEN THIS
AMAZING BOOK.
SO I BEGAN TO LOOK INTO HIM.
WHO IS THIS MAN?
WHAT WAS HE LIKE?
LET ME JUST TELL YOU HIS BRIEF
BIO, AND WHAT ATTRACTED ME TO
IT.
HE WAS BORN IN GRENADA, NOT
LONG AFTER, OR JUST BEFORE,
PROBABLY JUST BEFORE THE
CATHOLIC KING AND QUEEN TOOK
OVER GRANADA, TOOK OVER ALL
ANDALUSE.
HIS FAMILY QUICKLY TOOK HIM
DOWN TO FEZ.
THEY WANTED TO REMAIN-- DID NOT
WANT TO REMAIN IN A CHRISTIAN
LAND.
TOOK HIM DOWN TO FEZ, WHERE HE
WAS TRAINED IN THE MADRASSAS OF
FEZ, THE GREAT MADRASSAS IN
LAW, IN THEOLOGY, IN GRAMMAR
AND POETRY, LIKE SO MANY ALL
ARABS OF HIS GROUP AND ALL
ARABS LOVE POETRY.
HE WAS A VERY GOOD POET.
BECAME A DIPLOMAT FOR THE
SULTAN OF FEZ, AND IN THAT
CAPACITY, TRAVELLED ALL OVER
MOROCCO, TUNISIA, ALGERIA, DOWN
TO THE-- ACROSS THE SAHARA,
VISITED THE GREAT SONGAI
KINGDOM AT ITS HEIGHT IN
TIMBUKTU AND CROSSED TO LAKE
CHAD UP TO EGYPT WHERE HE SAW
THE MAMLUK DYNASTY, AND INDEED,
SAW THE OTTOMAN TURK SULEEM
CONQUER THE MAMLUK DYNASTY IN
1517.
VISITED THE ISTANBUL COURT,
ALWAYS AS A DIPLOMAT, AND TOOK
NOTES WHEREVER HE WAS, LISTENED
TO STORIES WHEREVER HE WAS, AND
THEN, ON THE BOAT, BACK FIRST
FROM ISTANBUL TO CAIRO, AND
THEN FROM CAIRO BACK TO FEZ, HE
WAS KIDNAPPED BY CHRISTIAN
PIRATES OPERATING OUT OF SPAIN
IN THIS CASE, WITH A LITTLE BIT
OF HELP FROM MALTA AND RHODES,
AND TAKEN TO ROME.
AND INSTEAD OF BEING
IMPRISONED, THE USUAL FATE, OR
ENSLAVED IN ITALY, BECAUSE HE
WAS A DIPLOMAT, HE WAS TAKEN
WITH HIS DIPLOMATIC POUCHES TO
POPE LEO X.
THIS IS THE GREAT RENAISSANCE
POPE.
HE IS INCARCERATED IN THE
CASTLE OF ST. ANGELO, AND AFTER
A YEAR AND A HALF OF BEING
CATECHISED, AND READING BOOKS
IN ARABIC, OFTEN, ABOUT
CHRISTIAN THINGS -- OWNED BY
THE VATICAN, HE BECAME A
CHRISTIAN, OR SO IT SEEMED.
FOR THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS, FROM 1520 TO
1527, HE TAUGHT ARABIC TO
HIGHLY PLACED PEOPLE INCLUDING
ONE OF HIS GODFATHERS, THE
CARDINAL, EGIDIO DE VITERBO,
HIMSELF A SPECIALIST IN JEWISH
CABALISTIC LORE, BUT WHO WANTED
TO LEARN ARABIC, ALL WITH THE
HOPE OF CONVERTING ARABS AND
JEWS AND THE INDIANS OF THE NEW
WORLD TO CHRISTIANITY SO THAT
ALL THE WORLD COULD LIVE IN
PEACE UNDER A CHRISTIAN -- A
GREAT CHRISTIAN MONARCH, AND OF
COURSE DEFEAT THE TURKS.

Natalie says HE
TAUGHT ARABIC TO THIS
GENTLEMAN, AND WROTE SEVERAL
BOOKS, VERY INTERESTING BOOKS
IN WHICH HE DESCRIBED THE WORLD
THAT HE HAD COME FROM, FOR THE
BENEFIT OF EUROPEAN AND
ESPECIALLY ITALIAN READERS.
AND ONE OF THOSE BOOKS WAS THAT
BOOK ABOUT AFRICA THAT I HAD
SEEN SO MANY YEARS AGO.
HE WROTE A BOOK ABOUT
BIOGRAPHIES OF ARABIC AND
JEWISH SCHOLARS OF THE ISLAMIC
WORLD, IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD.
HE WROTE A BOOK ABOUT ARABIC
POETRY AND PROSODY.
HE WROTE A BOOK ABOUT ISLAMIC
LAW, ACCORDING TO THE SO-CALLED
MALACHITE SCHOOL, WHICH WAS
FLOURISHED IN THE MAGHREB, AND
SEVERAL OTHER THINGS.
HE DID, TOGETHER WITH A JEWISH
LEARNED SCHOLAR, HE DID AN
ARABIC-HEBREW-LATIN DICTIONARY.
SO ALL OF THESE AMAZING THINGS,
AND THEN, IN 1527, AT THE TIME
OF THE SACK OF ROME, A GOOD
TIME TO GET OUT, HE WENT BACK
TO NORTH AFRICA, BACK TO ISLAM
AND RESUMED THE NAME HE HAD
BEEN BORN WITH AL HASSAN, AL
HASSAN IBN MUHAMMAD AL WAZZAN.
AND WHEN YOU HEAR ME TALK ABOUT
HIM FROM NOW ON, EITHER I'LL
CALL HIM AL WAZZAN, WHICH IS
HIS ARABIC NAME, OR THE NAME HE
TOOK DURING HIS YEARS AS A
CONVERT, WHICH IN ITALIAN WAS
GIOVANNI LEONI, WE WOULD SAY
JOHN LEO, BUT I ALWAYS CALL HIM
WHAT HE CALLED HIMSELF WHEN HE
WROTE TO DESCRIBE HIMSELF IN
ARABIC, JOHANNA AL ASSAD, UH,
JOHANNA, THE LION.
BECAUSE THE NAME SUGGESTS WHAT
I WANTED TO THINK ABOUT WITH
HIM, THE WAYS IN WHICH HE COULD
BE RECREATED AS AN ARAB, AS A
MUSLIM, AS A MAN WHO, WILLY-
NILLY, HAD TO COME TO TERMS
WITH LIVING IN A VERY DIFFERENT
CULTURE.
THERE WERE SOME WAYS IN WHICH
IT WAS ALIKE, BUT A CULTURE
DIFFERENT FROM THOSE THAT HE
KNEW IN THE OTHER PARTS OF THE
MEDITERRANEAN WORLD, AND TO
LOOK TO SEE WHAT HE HAD LEARNED
IN THE PROCESS OF THIS, WHAT
STRATEGIES HE USED IN ORDER TO
STAY THERE FOR SEVEN YEARS,
RATHER INTERESTED IN
CHRISTIANITY IN A WAY, BUT
ALSO, ALWAYS INTENDING TO GO
BACK.
HE SAYS IN HIS MANUSCRIPT AND
HIS BOOK, ONE DAY I WILL GO
BACK.
ONE DAY I WILL RETURN SAFE AND
SOUND FROM MY TRIP TO EUROPE.
MY TRIP -- THAT'S WHAT HE CALLS
IT.
HE DOESN'T MENTION HOW-- THAT
HE WAS KIDNAPPED -- AND I WILL
WRITE.
I WILL GO BACK AND I WILL WRITE
ABOUT EUROPE.
SO HE HAD ALWAYS PLANNED TO GO
BACK.
I WANTED TO RECREATE HIM.
HE HAS BEEN KNOWN TO SCHOLARS,
ESPECIALLY IN RECENT YEARS.
THE TEXT HAS BEEN VERY, VERY
MUCH USED BY AFRICANISTS, AND
PEOPLE INTERESTED IN
IMPERIALIST ATTITUDES IN POST
COLONIAL STUDIES, BUT HE'S
ESPECIALLY BEEN KNOWN TO
EUROPEANS BY THE WAY HE'D BEEN
CREATED BY CHRISTIAN EUROPE, AS
LEO AFRICANUS.
THAT'S THE WAY HE WAS PRESENTED
IN HIS BOOK, THAT WAS THE NAME
HE WAS GIVEN WHEN HIS BOOK WAS
LATER PUBLISHED AFTER HE LEFT.
AND I WANTED TO RECREATE HIM AS
AL WAZZAN, IBN MOHAMMED AL
WAZZAN.
I WANTED TO FIND OUT ABOUT
JOHANNA AL HASSAD.
I WANTED TO SEE HIM AS THE ARAB
THAT HE WAS, AND AS THE MUSLIM
THAT HE WAS, AND WHAT KIND OF
MUSLIM THAT HE WAS.
SO I EMBARKED ON THIS PROJECT.
THE EASY PART WAS GETTING HOLD,
IN A WAY, OF THE PRINTED
VERSION OF HIS BOOK.
BECAUSE AFTER HE LEFT, ABOUT 25
YEARS AFTER HE WENT BACK TO
NORTH AFRICA, THE BOOK WAS
PUBLISHED BY AN ITALIAN NAMED
RAMUZZIO, IN ITALIAN, IN A VERY
MUCH REVISED -- VERY MUCH
REVISED EDITION.
IT WAS PUBLISHED BY HIM, AND
THEN IT WENT INTO FRENCH, IT
WENT INTO LATIN, AND IT WENT
INTO ENGLISH.
IT WAS A BEST SELLER, A LEARNED
BEST SELLER, IF YOU WILL, IN
THE 16th CENTURY, AND OVER THE
CENTURIES, IT'S BEEN TRANSLATED
INTO OTHER LANGUAGES.
SO THAT WAS NO PROBLEM, AND ANY
OF YOU WHO WANTS TO LOOK AT IT,
YOU CAN FIND IT IN THE RARE
BOOK ROOM, AT VIC, YOU CAN FIND
IT IN THE RARE BOOK ROOM AT THE
FISHER LIBRARY, AND THERE ARE
ALL KINDS OF MODERN EDITIONS.
HE'S A VERY POPULAR FIGURE NOW.
SO THAT PART WAS NOT A PROBLEM.
THE CHALLENGE, HOWEVER, WERE
SEVERAL.
ONE WAS ARABIC.
I COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS BOOK
IF HIS MAJOR TEXTS HAD NOT BEEN
IN ITALIAN OR IN LATIN, BUT
THERE WERE SOME TEXTS IN
ARABIC, SO I LEARNED A LITTLE
BIT OF VOCABULARY, BUT
ESPECIALLY I WAS BLESSED WITH
TRANSLATORS, AND ESPECIALLY
MOHAMMED SIDDARMAT, WHO IS A
MARVELLOUS GRADUATE STUDENT
DOING A TERRIFIC DISSERTATION
HERE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
TORONTO, WHO HELPED ME WITH
THINGS LIKE THAT ARABIC SECTION
OF THE DICTIONARY.
ANOTHER CHALLENGE WHICH TURNED OUT TO
BE FUN, WAS THAT THE PRINTED
EDITIONS OF THE AFRICA BOOK
TURNED OUT TO BE VERY MUCH
EDITED FROM WHAT IN FACT HE HAD
REALLY WRITTEN IN THE
MANUSCRIPT.
I WANTED TO GET OUT WHAT HE SAID,
NOT THE WAY HE HAD BEEN REMADE
AS LEO AFRICANUS.
AND LUCKILY WE'VE GOT A
MANUSCRIPT OF THE ORIGINAL
WORK, NOT HANDWRITTEN BY HIM,
BUT BASED ON HIS HANDWRITING IN
THE LIBRARY, AND DATED IN 1526,
IN THE LIBRARY IN ROME.
SO THAT WAS JUST LOTS OF FUN.
THE REAL CHALLENGE WAS WHAT I
CALL THE SILENCES AND OMISSIONS
OF THE TEXT.
NOW THE MAIN BOOK THAT HE WROTE
I USED ALL THOSE MANUSCRIPTS
THAT I DESCRIBED, BUT THE MAIN
ONE THAT TALKS ABOUT HIMSELF,
IS THE AFRICA BOOK.
HE'S PRESENT EVERYWHERE IN THAT
BOOK.
HE TRAVELS ABOUT, HE SAYS WHAT
HE THINKS ABOUT THINGS, BUT
THERE ARE MANY PERSONAL THINGS
THAT HE DOESN'T SAY.
HE CAN'T SAY ANYTHING THAT WILL
OFFEND HIS CHRISTIAN PATRONS
WHILE HE'S THERE.
AND SINCE HE WANTS TO GO BACK
HOME, HE CAN'T SAY ANYTHING
THAT WILL MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE
FOR HIM TO MAKE EXCUSES WHEN HE
GOES BACK, AND NOT MAKE IT
IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO BE
REINTEGRATED INTO THE WORLD
THAT HE HAD LEFT.
SO THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF
SILENCES.
HE SAYS MANY, MANY THINGS,
TELLS US HIS ATTITUDE TOWARD
LOTS OF THINGS IN ISLAM, WHICH
ARE FASCINATING.
HE DOES NOT TELL US, FOR
INSTANCE, WHETHER HE GOT
MARRIED.
HE TALKS A LOT ABOUT WHAT HE
THINGS ABOUT WOMEN HE SEES
ACROSS AFRICA, WHETHER HE
THINKS THEY'RE BEAUTIFUL OR NOT
BEAUTIFUL, HE TALKS ABOUT
SEXUAL MATTERS, BUT HE DOESN'T
TALK ABOUT HIS OWN EXPERIENCES.
HE NEVER SAYS, NOT ONLY-- HE
NEVER SAYS, I WAS KIDNAPPED.
HE TALKS ABOUT BEING AFRAID OF
KIDNAPPING.
HE NEVER SAYS ANYTHING ABOUT
HIS CONVERSION.
YOU'VE JUST SORT OF-- WE KNOW
THAT IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, I'VE
GOT HIS BAPTISMAL RECORD.
SO I HAD TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM,
AND I'M GOING TO SHOW YOU A
LITTLE BIT ABOUT SOME OF THE
TECHNIQUES THAT I USED TO DO
SO, BY JUST SOME LITTLE NUGGETS
HERE AND THERE, SO YOU CAN SEE
HOW THE MAN CAN BE BROUGHT TO
LIFE.
FIRST OF ALL, I CERTAINLY
WANTED TO KNOW A LOT ABOUT HIS
MARRIAGE.
I'LL GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE OF
THAT -- HAD HE MARRIED.
AND HERE YOU'LL SEE THAT I USED
EVIDENCE FROM THINGS HE SAID,
AND EVIDENCE FROM PRACTISE IN
THE WORLD FROM WHICH HE CAME.
THIS IS AROUND 1513.
HE'S TRAVELLING -- HE'S JUST
BEEN IN EGYPT ON A DIPLOMATIC
MISSION.
IT WAS TIME TO GO BACK HOME AND
REPORT.
"IT MUST ALSO HAVE BEEN TIME TO
RETURN TO FEZ TO GET MARRIED.
OR, IF HE ALREADY HAD A WIFE, A
STRONG LIKELIHOOD BY NOW, TO
RETURN TO HER AND HIS
HOUSEHOLD.
THE WRITINGS OF AL WAZZAN
HIMSELF GIVE LITTLE DIRECT HELP
ON THIS MATTER.
BUT THAT OUR NORTH AFRICAN HAD
A WIFE IS A CERTAINTY.
MARRIAGE WAS THE PATH FOR THE
VAST MAJORITY OF MUSLIM MEN AND
WOMEN.
VERY FEW WERE TEMPTED BY THE
HIGH RENUNCIATION THAT HAD BEEN
FAVOURED BY ONE COTERIE OF
EARLY SUFFIS CENTURIES BEFORE.
LEADING HOLY MEN OF MOROCCO HAD
WIVES AND CHILDREN, AS, OF
COURSE, HAD THE PROPHET
HIMSELF.
SCHOLARS OF THE LAW, THEOLOGY
AND LITERATURE WERE EAGER FOR
SONS THAT WOULD FOLLOW IN THEIR
FOOTSTEPS.
THE JURIST, IBM IBRAHIM, WHO
LISTENED TO LECTURES IN FEZ, IN
THE VERY SAME CLASS AS AL
WAZZAN, ALREADY HAD HIS SON
FIRST BORN WHEN HE WAS ONLY 21.
NOW AL WAZZAN, NOW ABOUT 25,
AND A FAHKI," THAT'S THE WORD
FOR SCHOLAR, OR TRAINED IN THE
LAW, HE ALWAYS CALLED HIMSELF A
FAHKI.
"HE WOULD HAVE EXPECTED TO HAVE
A WIFE AND CHILDREN OF HIS OWN.
A YOUNG WOMAN FROM A FAMILY OF
OTHER GRENADAN REFUGEES WOULD
HAVE BEEN A LIKELY CHOICE.
HIS LATER HOUR BY HOUR ACCOUNT
OF THE MAKING OF MARRIAGE AT
FEZ, SURELY DREW FROM HIS OWN
EXPERIENCE, NOT JUST FROM WHAT
HE HAD SEEN.
THE NOTARISED CONTRACT THAT
SPELLED OUT THE DOWRY PROMISE
BY HUSBAND TO THE WIFE, WHICH
INCLUDED MONEY, A BLACK SLAVE
WOMAN, SILKEN TEXTILES, FINE
SLIPPERS, A BEAUTIFUL SCARVES,
COMBS AND PERFUMES, THE
GARMENTS, RUGS, BEDCLOTHES AND
WALL HANGINGS, THAT MADE UP A
WIFE'S TROUSSEAU FROM HER
FATHER, THE BRIDAL PROCESSION
WITH PIPES, TRUMPETS AND DRUMS
TO THE GROOM'S HOUSE, THEIR
FIRST SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, AND
THE DISPLAY OF THE WIFE'S
BLOODY UNDERGARMENT.
THE BANQUETS AND THE DANCING,
THE MEN AND WOMEN EACH
CELEBRATING IN THEIR SEPARATE
SPACE.
MAYBE AL WAZZAN HAD ALREADY A
SON IN THOSE YEARS, AND HAD
BASKED IN THE FESTIVITIES OF
THE BOY'S CIRCUMCISION ON THE
SEVENTH DAY, WHICH HE DESCRIBED
LATER IN DETAIL.
THE COINS PUT BY THE FATHER'S
FRIENDS ON THE FACE OF THE
BARBER'S ASSISTANT, WHO SHOUTED
THEIR NAMES TILL THE MONEY WAS
ALL COLLECTED, AND THE BABY
CIRCUMCISED.
THE SEPARATE DANCES OF THE MEN
AND WOMEN AFTERWARDS.
MAYBE HE HAD TO SETTLE FOR A
DAUGHTER, WHEN, AS AL WAZZAN
SAID, 'THERE WAS LESS
MERRIMENT.'

[Audience Laughter]

Natalie continues WE CAN
IMAGINE AL WAZZAN APPROVING THE
COOKING, SEWING AND SPINNING,
THAT WE WROTE, WAS EXPECTED
FROM A GOOD FEZ WIFE.
WE CAN IMAGINE HIM LISTENING TO
HER TELL WHAT SHE HAD SEEN FROM
THE DECORATED TERRACE ON THE
ROOF OF THEIR HOUSE, THE FEMALE
SPACE TO WHICH SHE AND THE
OTHER WOMEN IN THE HOUSEHOLD
REPAIRED FROM TIME TO TIME.
WE CAN IMAGINE HIM WATCHING HIS WIFE
GARB HERSELF FOR GOING OUT TO
THE STREETS, AS HE HIMSELF
DESCRIBED THE CUSTOM AT FEZ.
HER GOLDEN BEJEWELLED EARRINGS
AND BRACELETS WELL HIDDEN UNDER
A VEIL AND HER FACE COVERED
WITH A CLOTH, A SPACE ONLY FOR
HER EYES."
WELL THAT GIVES YOU AN EXAMPLE
OF ONE STRATEGY -- THINGS HE
TALKED ABOUT, BUT WHICH I THINK
YOU CAN ALSO APPLY TO HIM.
I WANTED TO IMAGINE HIM, AND I
DID IMAGINE HIM IN MANY, MANY
CONVERSATIONS IN ITALY.
I KNEW WHO HE KNEW.
I WOULD OFTEN USE BOOKS OF--
I KNEW WHO HE HAD WRITTEN TO,
WHO HE HAD WRITTEN FOR, PEOPLE
WHO HE HAD MET IN HOUSEHOLD.
SO I WOULD TRY TO IMAGINE, BY
KNOWING DIFFERENT INTERESTS
THAT THEY HAD, HOW THEY MIGHT
HAVE SPOKEN TO EACH OTHER.
BUT I-- HERE'S AN EXAMPLE OF
HIS RELATIONSHIP TO SOMEONE WHO
HE HAD TO BE VERY DEFERENTIAL
TOWARD, NAMELY HIS GODFATHER,
THAT CARDINAL EGIDIO, WHO WAS
HIS STUDENT OF ARABIC, BUT ON
THE OTHER HAND WAS A VERY, VERY
POWERFUL PERSON.
THE EGIDIO WAS NOT ONLY A
CARDINAL, BUT HE BECAME BISHOP
OF HIS HOME TOWN OF VITERBO.
AND JOHANNA AL ASSAD, I'LL GIVE
HIM HIS CONVERT NAME NOW, WENT
TO VITERBO WITH HIM, AND IT WAS
THERE THAT HE WORKED ON A LATIN
TRANSLATION OF THE QUR'AN, IN
MANY WAYS A QUITE TRANSGRESSIVE
ACT FOR HIM TO DO, BUT THE
QUR'AN HAD BEEN TRANSLATED BY
ANOTHER CONVERT IN SPAIN, AND
HE VOLUNTEERED TO PROBABLY TO
CORRECT THAT OTHER MAN'S NOT
VERY GOOD LATIN, AND WAS
WORKING ON THAT.
BUT I WANTED TO TRY AND IMAGINE
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE
TWO, AND HERE'S HOW I DID IT.
"THAT SAME YEAR, EGIDIO GAVE
SERMONS THROUGHOUT HIS DIOCESE.
IF JOHANNA AL ASSAD HEARD HIS
GODFATHER DELIVER THEM, OR READ
HIS DRAFTS, HE MUST HAVE BEEN,
ON THE ONE HAND, DAZZLED BY THE
POWERFUL AND ACCESSIBLE ORATORY
EVIDENT EEN TO A FOREIGNER'S
EAR OR EYE, AND ON THE OTHER
HAND, DISTURBED BY THE BISHOP'S
TREATMENT OF ISLAM.
EGIDIO TOLD WORSHIPPERS THAT
ISHMAEL AND HIS MUSLIM
DESCENDENTS WERE THE TERRIBLE
INSTRUMENTS OF RETRIBUTION
AGAINST HEBREWS AND CHRISTIANS,
BECAUSE OF ABRAHAM'S SIN, IN
CASTING OUT ISHMAEL'S MOTHER
HAGAR.
JOHANNA AL ASSAD KNEW THE VERY
DIFFERENT ISLAMIC TRADITION,
THAT ISHMAEL WAS MOST LIKELY
THE SON THAT ABRAHAM TOOK TO BE
SACRIFICED, THAT ISAAC WAS THEN
ABRAHAM'S REWARD FOR HIS
OBEDIENCE TO GOD, AND THAT
ABRAHAM LATER VISITED ISHMAEL
IN THE LAND THAT WAS TO BECOME
MECCA.
THE QUR'AN LINKS ISHMAEL AND
HIS BROTHER ISAAC, AND SERRA,
TOO.
SAY YOU, WE BELIEVE IN GOD, AND
IN THAT WHICH HAS BEEN SENT
DOWN ON US, AND SENT DOWN ON
ABRAHAM, ISHMAEL, ISAAC AND
JACOB, AND THE TRIBES, AND THAT
WHICH WAS GIVEN TO MOSES AND
JESUS AND THE PROPHETS OF THEIR
LORD.
WE MAKE NO DIVISION BETWEEN ANY
OF THEM, AND TO HIM WE
SURRENDER.
EGIDIO, IN CONTRAST, STRESSED
DIVISION WHEN HE ASKED HIS
LISTENERS IN HIS SERMON, WHO
HOLDS ASIA?
MUSLIMS.
WHO OCCUPIES AFRICA?
MUSLIMS.
WHO HAS CONQUERED A FINE AND
NOBLE PART OF EUROPE?
MUSLIMS.
HOW LONG HAGAR AND ISHMAEL HAVE
REIGNED FAR AND WIDE.
JOHANNA AL ASSAD WOULD HAVE
SHAKEN HIS HEAD AT THESE
INDIGNANT WORDS.
COULD HIS INTERPRETATION OF THE
QUR'AN EVER CHANGE THE WAY
EGIDIO LOOKED AT THE LEGACY OF
ISHMAEL?"
WELL THOSE WERE SOME OF THE
TECHNIQUES THAT I USED IN
TRYING TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF
HIM AND HOW I WORKED ON HIM.
I ALSO, HOWEVER, WANTED TO GET
AT THE SENSE OF HIMSELF AND
WHAT HE WAS DOING.
AND SO I TURNED TO METAPHOR AND
TO STORIES, INCLUDING A STORY
THAT HE TOLD ABOUT HIMSELF,
WHICH I FELT, WELL WOULD BE A
REAL CLUE TO WHAT HE WAS DOING
AND HOW HE WAS MANAGING IN THIS
DOUBLE WORLD.
"THE GEOGRAPHY OF AFRICA," AND
THIS, HERE I'M TALKING ABOUT
THE MANUSCRIPT, "IS A BOOK OF
DESCRIPTION AND COMMENTARY IN
WHICH ITS AUTHOR CONSCIOUSLY
MOVES BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN
EUROPE AND AFRICA, BETWEEN THE
DIFFERENT CULTURES AND POLITIES
OF AFRICA, AND BETWEEN ISLAM
AND CHRISTIANITY.
JOHANNA AL ASSAN OFFERS US A
FEW CLUES TO INTERPRET HIS
DOUBLE VISION.
THE FIRST IS EARLY IN THE BOOK.
AFTER AN OVERVIEW OF THE
PEOPLES AND CUSTOMS OF AFRICA,
HE CONCLUDES WITH AN ACCOUNT OF
THE VIRTUES AND VICES OF THE
AFRICANS, ALL OF THEM."
AND BY VICES, HE WAS
PARTICULARLY TALKING ABOUT
SEXUAL EXCESS, CROSS DRESSING,
AND PROSTITUTION AND SO FORTH.
"NOW THE AUTHOR ADMITS, I QUOTE HIM
NOW, 'TO NOT A LITTLE SHAME AND
CONFUSION IN DISCLOSING THE
VICES AND DISGRACEFUL QUALITIES
OF AFRICA, HAVING BEEN
NOURISHED AND RAISED THERE, AND
KNOWN AS A MAN OF PURITY.
BUT IT IS NECESSARY FOR ANYONE
WHO WANTS TO WRITE, TO TELL
THINGS AS THEY ARE.'
HE, JOHANNA AL ASSAD, MUST BE
SIMILAR IN HIS ACT OF
COMPOSITION, HE MUST TELL THE
TRUTH.
TO THE EXECUTIONER, FOUND IN A
STORY IN THE BOOK OF 100 TALES.
HE THEN TELLS A STORY ABOUT
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.
A MAN IS SENTENCED TO BE
WHIPPED, AND THE EXECUTIONER IS
HIS GOOD FRIEND, WHO, HE HOPES,
WILL HAVE COMPASSION FOR HIM.
INSTEAD, THE EXECUTIONER BEATS
HIM ESPECIALLY HARD AND
CRUELLY.
THE BEATEN MAN CRIES OUT, 'OH
MY FRIEND, YOU ARE TREATING
YOUR FRIEND VERY BADLY.'
THE EXECUTIONER ANSWERS, 'MY
FRIEND, HAVE PATIENCE.
I MUST DO MY DUTY AS IT OUGHT
TO BE DONE.'
BUT HAVING DONE HIS DUTY, THAT
IS BY TELLING THE TRUTH AS IT
IS, WILL JOHANNA AL ASSAD THEN
BE THOUGHT BY READERS TO HAVE
THE VICES OF THE AFRICANS AND
TO LACK THEIR VIRTUES?
ANTICIPATING SUCH A SUSPICION,
HE TELLS A STORY THAT REFRAMES
THE QUESTION OF RESPONSIBILITY.
IT, TOO, HE HAD FOUND IN THE
100 TALES.
ONCE THERE WAS A BIRD THAT
COULD LIVE EITHER ON LAND OR
UNDER THE WATER.
HE LIVED IN THE AIR WITH THE
OTHER BIRDS UNTIL THE KING OF
THE BIRDS CAME DEMANDING HIS
TAXES.
IMMEDIATELY THE BIRD FLEW TO
THE SEA, AND SAID TO THE FISH,
'YOU KNOW ME, I'M ALWAYS WITH
YOU.
THAT IDLE KING OF THE BIRDS HAS
BEEN ASKING ME FOR TAXES.
THE FISH WELCOMED HIM, AND HE
STAYED WITH THEM, COMFORTED AND
CONSOLED, UNTIL THE KING OF THE
FISH CAME BACK AROUND ASKING
FOR TAXES, WHEREUPON THE BIRD
SHOT OUT OF THE WATER, FLEW
BACK TO THE BIRDS AND TOLD THEM
THE SAME STORY.
SO HE CONTINUED WITHOUT EVER
PAYING ANY TAXES.
[Audience Laughter]
THE AUTHOR CONCLUDES FROM THIS,
THAT WHENEVER A MAN SEES HIS
ADVANTAGE, HE ALWAYS FOLLOWS IT.
I WOULD DO LIKE THE BIRD.
IF THE AFRICANS ARE BEING
VITUPERATED, THIS WRITER WILL
USE AS A CLEAR EXCUSE THAT HE
WAS NOT BORN IN AFRICA, BUT IN
GRENADA, AND IF THE GRENADERS
ARE BEING RAILED AGAINST, HE
WILL FIND THE EXCUSE THAT HE
WAS NOT BROUGHT UP IN GRENADA.
THROUGH THE SEQUENCE OF THE
EXECUTIONER'S TALE AND THE
BIRD'S STORY, JOHANNA AL ASSAD
PROVIDES HIS READERS WITH A KEY
TO INTERPRET HIS WRITINGS.
HE WILL TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT
THINGS AS THEY ARE, BUT IN
DOING IT, HE WILL NOT PIN
HIMSELF DOWN IN A FIXED
LOCATION, RATHER AS AUTHOR, HE
WILL BE FREE TO MOVE
STRATEGICALLY BETWEEN DIFFERENT
CULTURAL POSITIONS."
AND THAT'S JUST WHAT HE DOES.
I USE THE IDEA OF THE TRICKSTER
FIGURE, I DEVELOP THAT MUCH
MORE FULLY, THEN-- BUT THAT'S
THE KEY STORY TO SHOW HOW,
UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, HE
DISSIMILATES OR CONCEALS, AND
OTHERS, HE'S WILLING TO SPEAK
VERY, VERY FREELY.
MUCH OF MY BOOK IS DEVOTED, AS
IS HIS WRITING, TO SHOWING HOW
HE COMPARES, THINKS ABOUT THE
TWO WORLDS, HOW HE WORKS OUT
THIS DOUBLE VISION, HOW HE
COMPARES AFRICA WITH ITALY,
ESPECIALLY HOW HE MOVES BETWEEN
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM, THE
MOST DIFFICULT ISSUE AT ALL.
AND I'LL READ YOU A LITTLE TINY
BIT ABOUT WHAT HE DOES IN
COMPARING THE FOOD.
ON THE ONE HAND -- HE SOMETIMES
SEES THE TWO PLACES AS QUITE
EQUAL.
HE COMPARES THEIR POETRY,
THEY'RE BOTH WRITING WONDERFUL
POETRY.
THE ARABS OF THE DESERT, THEY
WERE NOMADS -- THE ITALIANS--
BUT SOMETIMES HE HAS ONE SIDE
COME OUT BETTER THAN THE OTHER,
BUT THE APPROVAL DID NOT ALWAYS
GO IN THE SAME DIRECTION.
"ON THE ONE HAND, JOHANNA AL
ASSAD EXPRESSES STRONG
RESERVATIONS ABOUT THE TABLE
MANNERS IN THE LAND WHERE HE
GREW UP, HAVING CONTRASTED THE
SIMPLE COUSCOUS MEALS OF THE
PEOPLE WITH THE SUMPTUOUS
REPASTS OF THE WEALTHY, HE
REMARKS, 'BUT IN COMPARISON
WITH THE NOBLES OF EUROPE, THE
LIFE OF AFRICA SEEMS VILE AND
MISERABLE.
NOT BECAUSE OF THE SMALL
QUANTITY OF THE FOOD--" BECAUSE
IT WAS AMPLE.
"BUT BECAUSE OF THE DISORDERLY
CUSTOMS.
IN EATING, EVERYONE SITS AROUND
A LOW TABLE WITHOUT TABLE
LINEN.
NO ONE HAS A NAPKIN IN HAND.
WHEN THEY HAVE COUSCOUS OR SOME
OTHER FOOD, THEY TAKE IT
TOGETHER OUT OF ONE POT, EATING
WITH THEIR HANDS WITHOUT A
SPOON.
SOUP AND MEAT ARE ALL IN ONE
POT, AND EACH PERSON TAKES A
PIECE OF MEAT AND WITHOUT A
KNIFE, BREAKS IT APART WITH
HAND AND KNIFE-- HAND AND
TEETH.
THEY ALL EAT AT A FURIOUS PACE,
AND HAVE NOTHING TO DRINK UNTIL
THEIR HUNGER IS SATED, THEN
EVERYONE DRINKS A CUP OR BOTTLE
OF WATER.
SUCH IS THE COMMON PRACTISE,
THOUGH MEN OF LEARNING AND
QUALITY--" MEANING PEOPLE LIKE
HIMSELF -- "LIVE MORE POLITELY.
IN SHORT, A SIMPLE ITALIAN
GENTLEMAN LIVES WITH MORE
REFINEMENT THAN ANY GREAT CHIEF
OR NOTABLE IN AFRICA."
SO THAT'S THE DOWN SIDE.
I MIGHT ADD, AS I DO IN THE
BOOK, THAT THE FORK HAD JUST
RECENTLY BEEN ESTABLISHED IN
ITALY.
THESE NEW TABLE MANNERS --
THESE ARE JUST BRAND NEW TABLE
MANNERS, THAT HE'S SEEING AT
THE VERY HIGHLY PLACED TABLES
IN ITALY, AND THE COMMON POT
WENT ON FOR A LONG TIME IN
EUROPE, TOO.
BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, HE GOES ON TO
PRAISE VERY, VERY HIGHLY, THE
HOSPITALITY EXTENDED EVEN BY
MUSLIM NOTABLES EVEN IN RARE
MOUNTAIN-- RARE MOUNTAIN-- HIGH
MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENTS.
AND I'LL CONCLUDE WITH HIS
DESCRIPTION OF THIS COMPARISON
WITH HOW HE TALKS ABOUT CITY
LIFE IN FEZ, TUNIS AND CAIRO.
"THEY ARE DAZZLING, THEIR
ENDLESS MARKETS, WHERE, AS HE
SAYS OF CAIRO, 'ONE CAN FINE
ANYTHING FROM ROSEWATER AND
COOKED MEAT, TO GORGEOUS
TEXTILES, SPICES, JEWELS AND
GOLDEN OBJECTS OF GREAT COST.
THEIR SKILLED ARTISANS THEIR
MOSQUES AND MADRASSAS, THEIR
BATHS, THEIR STREET FAIRS
ENTERTAINMENTS, THEIR BEAUTIFUL
WOMEN AND WELL DRESSED MEN,
THEIR LEARNED SCHOLARS, THEIR
COURTS.
AND FEZ, THE 50 GREAT MOSQUES
ARE WELL CONSTRUCTED AND
DECORATED WITH COLOURED MARBLE
AND OTHER ORNAMENTS, EACH ONE
WITH A BEAUTIFUL FOUNTAIN MADE
OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MARBLE
AND OTHER STONES UNKNOWN IN
ITALY.
THE GORGEOUS GARDENS OF FEZ ARE
A TERRESTRIAL PARADISE.
NEVER HAD HE SEEN A MARKET,
NEITHER IN AFRICA NOR ASIA NOR
ITALY WITH SO MANY PEOPLE AND
THINGS IN IT, AS THE ONE ON THE
OUTSKIRTS OF FEZ.
AS FOR CAIRO, CAIRO'S FAME
FLIES EVERYWHERE, A VERY GREAT
AND WONDROUS CITY.'
THESE TOWNS MORE THAN MATCHED
ANYTHING HE HAD SEEN IN ITALY."
HIS MOST DIFFICULT CROSSING WAS
OF COURSE THE ONE ON RELIGIONS,
AND I SPEND A GREAT DEAL OF THE
BOOK TALKING ABOUT THAT AND
DISCUSSING WHAT KIND OF A
MUSLIM HE WAS.
AND THIS IS THE PERIOD IN WHICH
THE PROTESTANTS ARE-- THE
PROTESTANT MOVEMENT IS
BEGINNING.
SIMILARLY, THE VERY IMPORTANT
RANGE OF FEELING AND CONFLICTS.
I DESCRIBE HIM AS A PERSON
ALWAYS INTERESTED IN
RECONCILIATION AND FINDING WAYS
THAT THE SUFI STYLE CAN BE
RECONCILED WITH LAW.
HE IS VERY CRITICAL OF THE
EXTREMES OF JIHAD.
YES FOR SELF DEFENCE OF THE
NORTH AFRICAN COAST AGAINST THE
PORTUGUESE AND THE SPANISH, BUT
VERY CRITICAL OF THE POGROMS
THAT SOME OF THE...
MORE HOLY MEN PREACHERS WERE
PREACHING AGAINST JEWS AND
AGAINST MUSLIMS WHO WERE
UNBELIEVERS.
AND VERY CRITICAL OF WORLD
CONQUERORS, WHETHER IT WAS
SALEEM, AND SULEIMAN, WHOM HE
MIGHT HAVE SUPPORTED TO SOME
EXTENT WHEN HE WAS A DIPLOMAT,
BUT AS HE WRITES NOW, HE WAS
NOT IN FAVOUR OF WORLD
CONQUERORS, OR WHETHER IT'S
CHARLES V, VERY CRITICAL.
AND HERE I'LL GIVE YOU JUST A
SENSE FROM HIS WRITING.
"JOHANNA AL ASSAD'S
CHARACTERISTIC TONE TOWARD
RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE AND
DESTRUCTION OVER THE CENTURIES
IS ELEGIAC.
THERE IS ALWAYS A NOTE OF
REGRET IN HIS MENTIONS OF THE
BUILDINGS, WALLS AND DWELLINGS
RUINED, AND POPULATIONS
SLAUGHTERED IN WAR.
WHETHER DURING THE ARAB
CONQUEST OF CHRISTIAN CARTHAGE,
THE CARAJITE BERBERS' REVOLT,
IN THE NAME OF ISLAM AGAINST
THE CALIPHS, THE STRUGGLES
BETWEEN DECLINING AL MAHAD
SULTANS AND UPCOMING MARANEADS.
OR THE PENGUINS SEIZURE OF
MOROCCO'S COASTAL TOWNS.
RUINS AND DEPOPULATED TOWNS, AS
HE REMEMBERS THEM FROM HIS
TRAVELS EVOKE LOSS, NOSTALGIA
AND THE MEMORY OF TEARS.
IN THE ONE PASSAGE WHERE
JOHANNA AL ASSAD EXPANDS ON
RELIGIOUS ICONOCLASM, HE SETS
IT IN A CONTEXT, 'ALL CONQUESTS
ERASE CULTURE.'
OF AN EARLY WRITTEN BERBER
LANGUAGE THAT HAD BEEN USED FOR
INSCRIPTIONS AND WAS EFFACED BY
THE ROMANS WHEN THEY TOOK OVER
BARBARY, HE WRITES, 'THE ROMANS
THEIR ENEMIES, WERE NOW THEIR
MASTERS.
THEY REMOVED THE LETTERS AND
MEMORABLE EVENTS RECORDED ON
THE BUILDINGS, AND REPLACED
THEM WITH THEIR OWN, SO THAT NO
MEMORY WOULD LAST BUT THEIRS.
THE GOTHS DID LIKEWISE TO THE
BUILDINGS OF THE ROMANS, AND
THE ARABS TO THE BUILDINGS OF
THE PERSIANS.
SO THE TURKS DO THE SAME TO THE
MEMORIALS OF THE CHRISTIANS,
DAMAGING THE FINE FIGURES
PAINTED IN THEIR CHURCHES.
AND IN OUR OWN TIME, WE SEE A
POPE WHO SPENDS THOUSANDS OF
DUCATS TO CONSTRUCT A GRAND
EDIFICE, AND THEN DIES LEAVING
IT UNFINISHED, WHEREUPON THE
NEXT POPE FINISHES IT UP AT A
MINIMAL COST, WHILE EFFACING
THE ARMS AND ALL THE OTHER
SIGNS OF HIS PREDECESSOR.'
WRITING IN ROME IN 1526, THE
LOSSES OF WAR, RATHER THAN ITS
TRIUMPHAL PURIFICATIONS, HAUNT
JOHANNA AL ASSAD, ONCE KNOWN AS
AL HASSAN, IBN MOHAMMED AL
WAZZAN."
WELL, AS I SAID EARLIER, HE
FINALLY GOES BACK, AND I TALK
QUITE A LOT ABOUT HIS RETURN,
AND THE PROBLEMS OF TRACING HIM
AFTER HIS RETURN.
HE SEEMS NOT TO HAVE WRITTEN
THE BOOKS THAT HE HAD HOPED TO
WRITE WHEN HE GOT BACK.
THOUGH HE DID LIVE FOR SEVERAL
MORE YEARS, AND MIGHT HAVE
HOPED TO DO SO.
THE MAIN LEGACY HOWEVER, OF HIS
LIFE, OF HIS WRITTEN LIFE, AT
LEAST UNTIL THE 20th CENTURY,
UNTIL THE 1930s, WHEN HE BECAME
A SUBJECT OF CONSIDERABLE
INTEREST IN MOROCCO, AND HE'S
OF VERY GREAT INTEREST RIGHT
NOW.
THE MAIN LEGACY FOR MANY
CENTURIES WAS THE AFRICA
MANUSCRIPT, REVISED, EDITED AND
PUBLISHED AS THE DESCRIPTION OF AFRICA,

[Speaking Italian]

BY THE VENETIAN POLITICAL
FIGURE AND EDITOR, RAMUZZIO.
IF AL HASSAN IBN MOHAMMED IBN AL
WAZZAN COULD HAVE KNOWN, OF THE
MANY EDITIONS AND TRANSLATIONS
HIS BOOK WOULD GO THROUGH, AND
OF THE GIANNI LEONI AFRICANA,
THAT IS THE LEO AFRICANUS, THAT
WOULD EMERGE FROM THEM, HE
MIGHT WELL HAVE HAD MIXED
REACTIONS.
THE WRITER IS STILL FINDING HIS
WAY IN ITALIAN, AS WE SEE HIM
IN THE MANUSCRIPT, HAS BECOME A
MASTER OF THE LANGUAGE.
THE AUTHOR OF A RELATIVELY
NEUTRAL RELIGIOUS TEXT HAS
BECOME, IN THE PRINTED VERSION,
A CONVINCED CHRISTIAN CONVERT
WITH ANTI-ISLAMIC SENTIMENT PUT
INTO HIS MOUTH, ESPECIALLY IN
THE FRENCH, LATIN AND ENGLISH
TRANSLATIONS.
THE POLYMATHIC OBSERVER OF
SOCIETIES AND SCHOLARS HAS
TURNED INTO AN HISTORIAN,
FOLLOWING ITALIAN RENAISSANCE
RULES.
AL WAZZAN'S BELIEF IN THE UNITY
OF AFRICA THROUGH ISLAM, HAS
BEEN WEAKENED BY THE RECASTING
OF HIS CLICHES ABOUT THE
ANCIENT MORAYS IN THE LANDS OF
THE BLACKS AS PRESENT DAY
DESCRIPTION.
BUT THAT TRICKSTER BIRD IS
STILL THERE, AND MUCH OF THE
STORY THAT AL WAZZAN HAD WANTED
TO TELL REMAINS.
BY THE 17th CENTURY, AN
INDIGNANT SPANISH INQUISITOR
WAS WRITING, "PROHIBITED IN
FULL," ON THE TITLE PAGE OF THE
LATIN TRANSLATION.
HE WENT THROUGH THE ENTIRE TEXT
CROSSING OUT OBJECTIONABLE
SENTENCES AND PUTTING A BIG
STAR IN THE MARGIN NEXT TO THE
BIRD STORY.
[Audience Laughter]
AL WAZZAN'S BOOK WAS USED FOR
MANY PURPOSES.
BUT FOR THE MYRIAD EDUCATED
READERS IT REACHED OVER THE
CENTURIES, IT BORE WITNESS TO
THE POSSIBILITY OF
COMMUNICATION AND CURIOSITY IN
A WORLD DIVIDED BY VIOLENCE.

[Long applause]

Watch: Natalie Zemon Davis on her book Trickster Travels