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Spain Under the Crescent Moon

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Spain Under The Crescent Moon
Angus Macnab

The book is highly relevant to the pressing contemporary problem of how to relate to the Islamic world. The history of Moorish Spain shows that the question is not a new one, and it seems beyond doubt that the solutions (because they came from a deeper level) reached during the many centuries of Christian-Muslim co-existence were more intelligent than the superficial and often ill-informed blundering so common in this area today.

Macnab writes deftly on art and history, chivalry and religion, Christian and Muslim kings, and Christian and Muslim holy men. His narrative is an open window onto an age of faith. He describes Arab accomplishments in poetry, music, and fine manners, as well as in the more familiar domains of architecture and calligraphy-the Alhambra at Granada being (with the possible exception of the Taj Mahal) the most renowned Islamic building in the world. He paints a fascinating picture of Islamic mysticism in a manner that recalls Ibn 'Arabi's account (published in English as Sufis of Andalusia) of the spiritual guides and masters that he knew as a youth in 12th century Spain.

Most of the chapters of Spain under the Crescent Moon were first delivered as weekly broadcasts on the North American service of the Spanish Radio, a series that gave rise to many appreciative letters. Now presented for the first time in book form, Spain under the Crescent Moon is a rich source of delight and new understanding.

Angus Macnab was born in London of New Zealand-Scots parents. He received a classical education at the ancient "Public School" of Rugby and at Christ Church College, Oxford. He was a gifted translator of Latin and Greek poetry, but as a profession he chose teaching. His interest in Spain began in 1936, and after the Second World War, in which he served as a volunteer ambulance driver, he learned Spanish and decided to make Spain his home. For many years he lived with his Irish wife and three children in the charming Plaza de Santo Tome (opposite the church of the same name) in Toledo. While there he received a number of distinguished visitors from England and America including novelists Evelyn Waugh and James Michener, musician and Tibetologist Marco Pallis, and publisher Tom Burns.

In 1938, under the influence of G.K Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, Angus Macnab embraced neo-scholasticism and traditional Catholicism. For some this could have been an intellectual straitjacket, but in conjunction with his classical roots and his later oriental studies, it provided Macnab with a fine philosophical tool for a subtle examination of the two traditional cultures (Christian and Islamic) of Medieval Spain. The fruits of his investigation in this field were his books Spain under the Crescent Moon and Toledo, Sacred and Profane.