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The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain Paperback – Apr 2 2003
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María Rosa Menocal's wafting, ineffably sad The Ornament of the World tells of a time and place--from 786 to 1492, in Andalucía, Spain--that is largely and unjustly overshadowed in most historical chronicles. It was a time when three cultures--Judaic, Islamic, and Christian--forged a relatively stable (though occasionally contentious) coexistence. Such was this period that there remains in Toledo a church with an "homage to Arabic writing on its walls [and] a sumptuous 14th-century synagogue built to look like Granada's Alhambra." Long gone, however, is the Córdoba library--a thousand times larger than any other in Christian Europe. Menocal's history is one of palatine cities, of philosophers, of poets whose work inspired Chaucer and Boccaccio, of weeping fountains, breezy courtyards, and a long-running tolerance "profoundly rooted in the cultivation of the complexities, charms and challenges of contradictions," which ended with the repression of Judaism and Islam the same year Columbus sailed to the New World. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Menocal (R. Selden Rose Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and director of Special Programs in the Humanities, Yale Univ.) has previously published The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage, as well as other books on the role of the vernacular in medieval cultures. This book certainly reflects her deep scholarship. Menocal offers persuasive evidence that the Renaissance was strongly foreshadowed by the intellectual climate of Spain in the preceding centuries, starting in 783 with the founding of Andalusia by Abd al-Rahman, an Umayyad from Syria. The culture created was receptive to intellectual pursuits not allowed in the rest of Europe for several centuries, including the creation of impressive libraries and the study and translation of Classical authors. Menocal claims that this environment was largely a result of the tolerance shown by this ruler and his successors toward Christians and Jews and their cultures. Menocal has not given us a history book so much as a demonstration that puritanical cultures of any ilk are detrimental to the development of science, art, and literature. Her arguments are convincing even without the dark background of September 11. Recommended for all libraries.
Clay Williams, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Preparatory chapters review the region's history in fairly traditional fashion. Beginning in the year 711, Islamic armies from Northern Africa began a steady conquest of Spain that eventually reached the Pyrenees. Although achieved primarily through military means, the conquest ushered in an era of remarkable open-mindedness (measured against the standards of the day) that lasted until Ferdinand & Isabella completed the Catholic Reconquista in 1492 and immediately embarked on their own perversely-reciprocal campaign of unicultural dominance.
The book's core sections then deal with the intervening years, a period that the author describes as "the chapter of Europe's culture when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side by side ... and nourished a complex culture of tolerance." She tells not a political story, but instead employs a series of biographical vignettes that focus on the intellectual and cultural achievers of the era: thinkers and explorers such as Paul Alvarus (a Cordoban Christian), Ibn Khaldun (a Tunisian Muslim traveler to al-Andalus), and Maimonides (a Jewish refugee from Cordoba to Egypt).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
An excellent book. I loved the detail and the sense of different communities growing together during this long ago time.Published 14 months ago by Allan Oliver Thorleifson
A book that purports to have some scholarly support, and that fails to list every single one of the major scholarly books on Islamic Spain -- especially failing to note the vast... Read morePublished on June 23 2004
The Ornament of the World is not only an excellent book, it should be required reading for anyone who is interested in history, religion, or world affairs. Read morePublished on May 10 2004
Ornament of the World is a perfect example of why historians do not always make good authors or storytellers. Read morePublished on May 5 2004 by A. R. Baroch
Writing history raises an inevitable challenge: relate events as they were or portray selected elements to emphasize a theme. Read morePublished on April 30 2004 by Stephen A. Haines
This book is historically inaccurate and does not bear a resemblance to original texts from the period and subsequent, properly documented, works. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2003
This is by far the worst book i have ever read. I was forced to read it before i went to spain and i cant explain the agony i went through to read this piece. Read morePublished on Dec 29 2003
Menocal uses slices of history to convey images of medieval life in Spain's Andalucia, where Arabs ruled over a mixed society of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Read morePublished on Oct. 9 2003 by M. A Michaud