Lost In Translation: Trickster Travels By Natalie Zemon Davis

1623 Words 7 Pages
Lost in Translation In her manuscript Trickster Travels, Natalie Zemon Davis was able to capture the life of a mysterious, elusive, and often times confusing man living in the Mediterranean area during the 16th century. In an attempt to understand al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmed al-Wazzan’s life as a traveler, diplomat, captive, writer, and translator, Davis analyzes primary and secondary sources alike in order to develop a comprehensive view of who al-Hasan al-Wazzan really was.
Davis finished her manuscript in 2006, after doing thorough research into both the writings of al-Wazzan as well as the historical context in which the writings were composed. Davis finally “…realized that silences and occasional contradictions and mysteries were
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(Davis 211) In Italy, the religion of Christianity was seen as the center of their society. In order to rise in societal ranks one must therefore rise in religious ranks, becoming close to religious officials such as cardinals or the pope. In doing so, al-Wazzan “…found ways to be close and to be distant to both his old world and his new one.” (Davis 223) By providing the cardinal Egidio as well as the Pope with information regarding Islamic North Africa, al-Wazzan was able to form meaningful and at times profitable relationships, thus tying his old world in with his new one. In establishing himself in Christian Italy, al-Wazzan likely understood that if he offered help, he would be rewarded with more freedoms. “…He knew well that the Egidio da Viterbo wanted to understand Islam’s holy book as better to convert Muslims…” (Davis 243) Al-Wazzan went on to write about Islamic society for Italian readers, translating works and teaching Italians the ways of the Qur’an. In this way, he was able to find that “The most accessible mode for sustaining a double identity was to find equivalents, to locate places where worlds seemed to converge.” (Davis …show more content…
We know that at this time the religions of Christianity and Islam are each seen by their worshippers as the one true religion. To have a man like al-Wazzan so easily slip between the two worlds raised the suspicion of the Islamic people and possibly even that of a few of the Italians. Davis writes that “The return cannot have been easy for the man who would resume the name of al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmed al-Wazzan and the dress of a North African.” (Davis 249) While the people of the time not only saw their religion as the one true religion, the Islamic people regarded the sharing of their religion to Christians as unacceptable. “The stakes would have been high for al-Hasan ibn Muhammas ibn al-Wazzan, especially if people learned he had been teaching the Qur’an to a Christian cardinal.” (Davis 253) Not only had al-Wazzan been absent from North Africa for a large amount of time, but he was in jeopardy of Islamic officials finding out about his writings or teachings of the Islamic faith. It is no surprise that a man who had been gone for so long from a land he once called home would have changed in some way, no longer the North African man he once was. In the end, “Whatever the case, al-Wazzan could not expect a favorable reception in Fez.” (Davis

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