Book: the Moor’s Account
Author: Laila Lalami
Around the World: Morocco
The Narváez expedition in 1527 to Florida was a disaster. Starting with 600 people, all were killed or lost over a number of disasters until, 8 years later, only 4 remained- 3 Spaniards and a Moor slave. As is usual, history is written by the victors, or those in power- in this case one of the Spaniards. Laila Lalami writes the story of what happened from the point of view of the slave- who endured all the same trial, who became an esteemed healer amongst the Native tribes, who likely formed friendships with his ‘owners’ during their 8 years of survival- but who was relegated to a single sentence in the account of the expedition: “The fourth [of us],” says Cabeza de Vaca, “is Estebanico, an Arab Negro from Azemmour.”
Nothing more was known of Estebanico, so Lalami has created a past- with stories of the rich Morrocan culture and fascinating market places that he would have grown up amongst. She also describes gives him a more pivotal role in some of the things that took place than Cabaza de Vaca wrote- an artistic licence that in all probability is true. The book is purposely tweaking the story a bit, to show how feasible it is that the story may have been told a bit differently if someone else was to tell it.
I quite enjoyed this book- there is history, adventure, a little bit of philosophy and insight into human nature, some politics, exploration of different cultures and lots of action.