May 1, 2024

A Portrait of the Void can be seen as an imaginative interpretation of history

A Portrait of the Void

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The essence of historical fiction lies not in documenting historical events, but rather in employing narrative tools in its aesthetic form. It also lies in allowing more space for imagination to narrate what did not happen or, more precisely, to narrate the unspoken. In his novel “A Portrait of the Void”  published by Takween Publishing, Saudi writer Ashraf Fagih recounts, in 268 pages, the history of the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci and his journey of learning and mastering Arabic numerals and arithmetic. He does so not only to chronicle his life through a summary of his journey but also to grasp Fibonacci’s philosophy in his perception of the world through Arabic symbols, marginalized in the format of numbers and arithmetic, and to give them meaning through the vocabulary of language.

The Conflict Between the Church and Authority

In this captivating journey, the writer Ashraf Fagih narrates the story of Leonardo Fibonacci from childhood to old age, recounting the details of his upbringing from the very beginning as if he were a witness to it all. He imbues the protagonist of his narrative and historical account with another dimension to his story, not only as a historical figure but also as an artistic persona, leaving room for contemplation and exploration of his story through what the recipient perceives, providing an exceptional narrative essence.

The threshold of the novel opens with a scene of Leonardo Fibonacci reaching the Cathedral of Pisa in Tuscany in the year 1250 AD, summoned by Cardinal de Mora to stand before the judges for trial in his old age. It’s as if the author intended to commence his narrative from the pinnacle moment in Leonardo Fibonacci’s life. He is questioned about the accusation leveled against him regarding his relationship with the former Roman Emperor Frederick Hohenstaufen, known as Frederick II, the ruler of Sicily at that time. Frederick II, who was ostracized by the clergy and priests due to his attempts to control Italy, was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1229 AD. This led to a major dispute between him and the religious authorities. Consequently, he was accused of heresy and apostasy at the time, and his relationship with the emperor was considered suspicious in terms of his religious beliefs and a grave crime.

Sequence of Time

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