3RD NATIONAL ORIENTALIST CONFERENCE "HISTORICAL MEMORY IN CULTURES OF AFRICA AND ASIA", University of Warsaw.
Participating in conferences weekly, as I've been doing these days, is perhaps an exaggeration. Yet I just can't stop. Oriental studies always bring about something fresh, and I find them relaxing. Also this time, even if my own presentation on al-Andalus might perhaps be judged as close to failure, I don't regret the time spent among people and books - as always, I brought home an overcharged bag, full of Hafiz and Hindi grammar.
I promise myself to elaborate my Andalusian topic much more. First of all, as I claim, it's not a territorialized "place of memory", but rather a symbolic space, rich in transcultural potential I'm keen to explore, even if perhaps it's not the central issue on this occasion. In my presentation, I did something I shouldn't have done as a self-respecting scholar - I mentioned a novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, La piel del tambor, where the return of the Saracens (in guise of Saudi investors) is the primary cause of all the trouble. Yet my hypothesis is contrary to the message in this popular book. Al-Andalus has been remembered, as I argue, in a completely deterritorialized way, of which buying a Rolls-Royce Ghost Firnas, rather than a window upon the Giralda, might be the symbol. The Saracens have already brought it home.
There is much to be said about the contemporary reinvention of Abbas ibn Firnas as the icon of Andalusian glory. Yet the topic should be seen in even larger perspective: the tradition of presenting and remembering al-Andalus as a lost world, the very symbol of perishable greatness. This is why I believe I should go back as far as al-Rundi to see how and why al-Andalus became, both in Arabic and Jewish memory, the symbol of irretrievably lost, with no hotel window giving upon it.