Leon L’Africain

I wouldn’t normally have paid much attention to this book list, billed as “reading list to while away waning winter” but the choice of a favorite Amin Malouf book, Leo Africanus, changed my mind. It’s an imaginary, lyrical biography of a real, historical figure, Hassan Al-Wazzan, a 16th-century Moorish ambassador. Al-Wazzan was caught by Sicilian pirates on his way back from a pilgrimage to Mecca and was given as a gift to Pope Leo X. He became the renowned geographer Leo de Medici, or Leo Africanus, and was witness to a number of historical events.