Anselm Turmeda (Palma de Mallorca, c. 1355 - Tunis, after 1423). Also called Abdallah at-Tarjuman, is a Majorcan writer who has part of his work in Arabic.
Turmeda entered the Franciscan Order and studied theology, physics and astrology in Lleida, Bologna and probably in Paris. At the age 35, he converted to Islam and consequently moved to Tunis, where he had a successful professional career.
He is the author of Catalan books such as Llibre de bons amonestaments (1398), a compilation of rhymes giving moral advice, which was popular throughout the Catalan speaking territories up until the XIX Century. He also wrote Cobles de la divisió del Regne de Mallorques (1398), an allegorical 123 verse poem; and a series of prophecies (1404-1407), in which he prophecized about politics and religion. The compilation of proverbs Llibre de tres (1405-1407) is also attributed to him by the majority of experts. His most celebrated work is Disputa de l'ase (1418), a satirical narrative of great expressive agility, where the author argues with a donkey about the superiority of mankind over the animal kingdom. Turmeda also wrote a book in Arabic, Tuhfat al-'aribfi radd 'ala ahl al-salib (1420), where he describes his conversion to Islam, the life of Tunisian sultans, and a series of arguments against Christianity.
Turmeda represents, probably, the only example of a medieval writer who wrote in an European language and in Arabic, that reached great success in both literatures.
Page by Josep Miàs for AELC.
Pòrtic's image: Tunis, portrayed in a detail of the Turkish admiral and geographer Piri Reis' nautical chart (1513), preserved at the Topkapi Sarayi Museum of Istanbul.
Translated by Josep Miàs.