I’ve finished listening to The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami on Audible. I don’t recall where I heard about this novel or Lalami, but this has been sitting in my Audible library for at least a year, so I’m glad I finally got around to it.
This historical fiction is an alternative telling of the Narvaez expedition to La Florida in 1527, as told by Mustafa al-Zamori, a Moroccan slave of one of the Spanish captains on the expedition.
I largely enjoyedthis story. Its steady pace and focus on the characters’ relationships with each other made it easy to follow. While Lalami’s writing style is descriptive, it was not bogged down by overly detailed accounts of supplies or facts about the expedition.
Although the plot was not particularly dramatic or suspenseful, it was a stark and authentic window into the human condition during hardship. How we fracture or come together. How we forge bonds with each other through shared experiences. And how those bonds of fellowship wither under external pressures.
These questions were pondered by Mustafa throughout the story, eventually landing in a satisfying, if not especially profound manner. Mustafa was a sympathetic protagonist and narrator who, despite the mistakes of his past, was determined to carve a life for himself out of extraordinary circumstances. His self-described place as a storyteller was a perfect vehicle for the light exploration of the contradictory narratives of the expedition told by those who survived.
This story is not a revisionist history of the Narvaez expedition; it does not delve deeply enough into the historiography of Spanish imperialism for that. It is a worthy story told from a deliberate and alternative perspective, and I found that sufficient.
I’m definitely interested in Lalami’s other work having read this.