November 27, 2008

History between fact and fiction: “The Granada Trilogy”

Posted in Books - Fav. Selections, Books Reviews at 3:31 am by Rou...

“غرناطة رواية المقموعين، حيث يصبح مجرد البقاء على قيد الحياة بطولة في عالم عدواني يقمع تاريخاً كاملاً”

— جابر عصفور عن ثلاثية غرناطة

 

Written by the Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashur, “ثلاثية غرناطة” or the “Granada Trilogy”, is a novel that consists of three parts unfolding the history of three generations of a Spanish Arab family who lead ordinary lives in an extraordinary time and place…

 

The novel represents the period between just before the disgraceful fall of Granada to that of the full uprooting and displacement of the Arabs of Al-Andalus, which covers almost a hundred years; from November 1491 to October 1609…

 

Within the prevailing conditions of a dramatic history, the lives of Abu Jaafar, a bookbinder and a lover of books and knowledge, his family and community is portrayed; their delights as well as their sorrows and tribulations that resulted from the repression on their religion and culture…

 

The way each character in the novel reacted differently to the betrayal of their society and the surrender of its leader (Abu ‘abd-Allah Muhammad XII), resembled what happened with a whole community who lived in Granada at that time.  Some submitted externally, but had rage internally, they fought back in secret by continuing their practices, hiding books that were intended to be burned, and keeping their stories alive at home; some drew back into grief; some gave up because the oppression was too powerful to fight back, while others took the armed resistance path and joined rebels in the hills. Some chose opportunism, and others just ran away to Morocco.

 

I was fascinated by the enormous details of each and every character in the novel… Radwa Ashur brilliantly conveyed a message that life has joys even in the most terrible situations; and that happiness, even for short whiles, is essential for survival. Abu Jaafar’s family created a life for itself within a time when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella literally forced all the Arabs of Granada to taste the bitterness of defeat… They fell in love, got married, put birth to children, tried to get themselves contentment in their daily lives; food, books, even pets and gardens were sources of joy to generations in one of the most tiresome of times…

 

One of the things that distinguish the trilogy is that it didn’t make much deviation in revealing the historical events of that time… it didn’t apply fiction to the events itself, but rather to the characters and the plots of their lives…

 

Between love, war, peace, pain, grief, tears, joy, murder, burning, Christianization and displacement, the novel splendidly take the reader back to that tough time of the last days of Al-Andalus; the scene finale of the trilogy somehow pictured Granada not as a mere example of loss, but rather as a way to overcome the burdens of this sad history and build a new “Andalus”, in whatever sense this word might mean… reminding its reader that: “قد يكون الموت في الرحيل وليس في البقاء

 

At the very first chapter of the novel Abu Jaafar wonders:

“كيف يتعهد ملك بتسليم ملكه؟ وكيف يقضي بتعهد قادة البلاد وفقهائها وكافة أهلها بأن يسلموا طواعية قلاع الحمراء وحصنها وأبراجها، وأبواب غرناطة والبيازين وضواحيها؟”

 

Every time I read about the Islamic Legacy in Al-Andalus, I wonder too!

 

All the best,

Rou…

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10 Comments »

  1. Rou... said,

    …و فى النهاية سوف نسأل أنفسنا
    الأندلس، هل كانت هنا أم هناك؟
    على الأرض أم فى أبيات الشعر؟

    ادوارد سعيد

  2. Deana said,

    ive read the first book of this trilogy in indonesian language version (i would prefer bahasa malaysia though) n it really gives impact to me everytime i read it. really felt the history revolving around me as i read it n cant wait for the next book~ 🙂

  3. Rou... said,

    I couldn’t agree more with your description… “feeling the history revolving around me…”… I felt exactly the same when I first read the triology… felt like I am living there… I am suffering with them, laughing and crying with them… and the moment I finished reading it I discovered that I am feeling nostalgic… and the funny thing is that I was feeling nostalgic to a place I have never been to, and people I have never met or seen… I was feeling nostalgic to a life I haven’t actually lived in real, but rather felt and reacted with through the book’s words….

    Thank you Deana for you comment, and I’m sure you’re gonna like the rest of the triology as much as you were touched by the first novel…

  4. Abenarabi said,

    I really have to read this book! looks very interesting for me as a student of Arabic and as a citizen from Southern Spain!
    Thank you!

  5. Rou... said,

    It is a very good read, I promise you… I do also recommend “راوي قرطبة” or “The Storyteller of Cordoba”, written by the Palestinian writer Abd el Gabbar Odwan…

    Are you Spanish? I am really interested in getting to know you… I am fascinated with this part of history, you have no idea… I get to feel nostalgic to Al Andalus at times… and it keeps me wondering… how can one feel nostalgic to a time and place that he haven’t lived in……

    Thank you for passing by, and I hope we can stay in touch!

  6. Abenarabi said,

    السلام عليكم
    Yes mate, I’m from Spain. Al Andalus times are very interesting though I haven’t studied it since I came out High School, but there are a lot of remains of it in my city. That’s way I started learning Arabic two years ago and now I was trying to find some good books (not history books) about it. Thanks again for suggesting some books, I think “The storyteller of Cordoba” available on a library near my house.
    شكراً

  7. Rou... said,

    Walaykum elsalam 🙂

    That’s interesting… so, which city are you from? Granada?
    I do actually have a very close friend who lived for a year in Gradana where he finished a diploma about the history of AlAndalus in the university there… he is currently living in Barcelona… He has enormous info about this phase of history… I took with him a course last year about the history of Andalus… I can put you in contact with him if you’re interested to know more info…

    In fact, the other good reference that I have is the audio storytelling of AlAndalus history by someone called Tarek Swidan… He’s a sort of an Islamic preacher, who I dont like 🙂 but this one in particular was really good!

    That was long! Hope it wasnt boring! 🙂

    • Abenarabi said,

      I’m from Murcia! Murcia was part of Al Andalus territory as well, there is the remain of an Arab wall in the city and recently they’ve found an Arab market and a little mosque down town while building a car park underground.

      مُرسية مدينة جميلة جدّا
      أنا أدرس اللغة العربية منذ سنتين وأريد أن أقرأ قصص العربية

      Hope you can understand this, though my Arabic is still very poor.
      We stay in touch

  8. Rou... said,

    I definetly know Murcia, actually there’s a well known scholar who lived in Alexandria city in Egypt after leaving Murcia city, and there’s a huge mosque holding his name there… it is called “Abu Abbas Al Morsy” and he said to be called Al Morsy, becasue he orignially came from Murcia, Al ANdalus! 🙂

    I see you’re doing great in your Arabic lessons, I understood your sentences perfectly…

    It’s good knowing you, please let me know if I can be of any help…
    Have a good day,

  9. Amazing issues here. I’m very happy to see your article.
    Thanks so much and I am looking forward to contact you.
    Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?


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