‘The Moor’s Account’ follows the life of Estebanico, a slave who life is twice uprooted, firstly by his enslavement and secondly by the ill fated expedition to explore America which he is a part of. Lalami seamlessly blends fiction with history as she explores life from the perspective of a man as he gradually loses any resemblance of humanity beneath the chains of slavery, with Estebanico reduced to a chattel like existence as his inner light is extinguished beneath the looming shadow of his masters.
Lalami possesses a natural flair and affinity for storytelling, for capturing and holding the imagination of the reader with an astonishing level of historical detail. Whether it be Estebancio’s childhood in Fez, the first years of his forced indenture in Seville or his travails around America amongst various Native American tribes, Lalami render his story and of those around him with depth and sensitivity. Lalami avoids generalities and so the Native American tribes are depicted as fully realised people, both the good and the bad and so the Estebancio gradually sees the barriers which existed between him and the Spaniards who acted as his master slip away during their years of exile, only to be put back up again once they return to civilisation and assume their former position.
Lalami’s depiction of human nature isn’t cynical per but one grounded the reality where the greed and avarice of men is just as prominent as their kindness, where our experienced and environments shape us and where it is all to easy to forget our shared sense of humanity in an empire whose sense of entitlement and greed led to it subjugating vast swathes of the world.