If by chance you are studying either of these texts–Broken April by Ismail Kadare or Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf–I’ve two suggestions of supplementary materials that can enhance both your work with students and also with their Interactive Orals.

I know that Kadare’s work is the more popular of the two, and I’ve had both the experience of including it in Part 1 with great success and of reading Written Assignments that handle it successfully, the latter as an examiner.  The Maalouf is much less often chosen, I think, regrettably.  First, it is a wonderful old-fashioned narrative that students read with ease and interest and certainly expands their understanding of the Renaissance world around the European and African mediterranean region. Secondly, it is a fine introduction to the Muslim and Christian contexts of the time, along with Maalouf’s subtext about being a citizen of the world. And finally, it is based on the actual author of the first geography of Africa, al-Hasan al Wazzan who, by many adventures and contretemps, became known as Leo Africanus. Obviously, there are rich contextual and cultural materials for Interactive Orals here that can well serve one of our purposes in the course, to expand our students’ sense of the world through their study of literature.

There is even an account of a study abroad trip which traced the travels of Leo which can be found here.

In addition there is an excellent work by Natalie Zemon Davis, Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth Century Muslim between Worlds. Re-reading this study prompted me to recommend Maalouf’s work to you.

Broken April is a novel that is much more commonly used in Part 1 and a work that also seems to engage students.  Its account is of the blood feuds of the high mountains of Albania and one man’s attempt to deal with them set against the experience of a honeymooning couple from the city. It works very well as an unpredictable and somewhat exotic narrative. The setting is one with which many of us are unfamiliar and I was given a book by a peace corp volunteer which provides an interesting perspective on the time of the Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha, something which that has relevance to the background of Kadare’s novel.  It is by a New Zealander who traveled to Albania and uncovered not only the story of Hoxha’s double, but explored the fate of the Albanian people during his reign.  The writer is Lloyd Jones, and the title is Biografi, the name given to the files kept on people by the secret police during Hoxha’s reign.  There is much to interest students, perhaps, in all this and certain sections of the work could certainly round out a broader picture of Albania.

The backdrops of  both these novels are very deep wells, but I hope I may have given you the incentive to consider lowering a bucket and looking at one or both of these works and their contexts.