The Moor's Account
The Moor's Account
By Laila Lalami
Pantheon Books, Hardcover, 9780307911667, 336pp.
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
**Nominated for the 2016 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award**
A Pulitzer Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book
A Wall Street Journal Top 10 Book of the Year
An NPR Great Read of 2014
A Kirkus Best Fiction Book of the Year
In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.
In 1527, the conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez sailed from the port of Sanlucar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown and, in the process, become as wealthy and famous as Hernan Cortes.
But from the moment the Narvaez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition's treasurer, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andres Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes's Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquis-tadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.
The Moor's Accountbrilliantly captures Estebanico's voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition. As the dramatic chronicle unfolds, we come to understand that, contrary to popular belief, black men played a significant part in New World exploration and Native American men and women were not merely silent witnesses to it. In Laila Lalami's deft hands, Estebanico's memoir illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, even as storytelling can offer a chance for redemption and survival.
“Laila Lalami has fashioned an absorbing story of one of the first encounters between Spanish conquistadores and Native Americans, a frightening, brutal, and much-falsified history that here, in her brilliantly imagined fiction, is rewritten to give us something that feels very like the truth.”
“A beautiful, rousing tale that would be difficult to believe if it were not actually true. Lalami has once again shown why she is one of her generation’s most gifted writers.”
—Reza Aslan, author of Zealot
“Tremendous and powerful, The Moor’s Account is one of the finest historical novels I’ve encountered in a while. It rings with thunder!”
“¡Qué belleza! Laila Lalami has given us a mesmerizing reimagining of one of the foundational chronicles of exploration of the New World and an indictment of the uncontainable hubris displayed by Spanish explorers—told from the point of view of Estebanillo, an Arab slave and Cabeza de Vaca’s companion in a trek across the United States that is as important as that of Lewis and Clark. The style and voice of sixteenth-century crónicas are turned upside down to subtly undermine our understanding of race and religion, now and then. The Moor’s Account is a worthy stepchild of Don Quixote de la Mancha.”
—Ilan Stavans, author of On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language and general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature
“A novel of extraordinary scope, ambition and originality. Laila Lalami has given voice to a man silenced by for five centuries, a voice both convincing and compelling. The Moor’s Account is a work of creativity and compassion, one which demonstrates the full might of Lalami’s talent as a writer.”
—Aminatta Forna, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Hurston Prize Legacy Award-winning author of The Memory of Love, Ancestor Stones, and The Devil That Danced on the Water
A Moroccan slave named Estebanico was one of only four men to survive a 1528 expedition to America from Spain. The Moor's Account, a fictional memoir by Laila Lalami, tells the story through his eyes. More at NPR.org
NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.