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Night and Horses and the Desert: The Penguin…
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Night and Horses and the Desert: The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic… (urspr publ 1999; utgåvan 2000)

av Robert Irwin (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
211297,496 (3.85)6
Spanning the fifth century to the sixteenth, and ranging from Afghanistan to Spain, this unique collection provides a profound insight into the sheer vitality and depth of Classical Arabic literature. From the earliest surviving fragments of The Thousand and One Nights to the elegant beauty and profound power of the Qur'an - believed by the Islamic faith to contain the actual words of Allah - it includes translated extracts from all the major works of the period, alongside many less well-known but equally fascinating pieces. Exploring such traditional themes as lovesick yearning and fated doom, and considering subjects as diverse as the etiquette of falling in love with slave-girls and the terrors of the sea. This compelling anthology of poetry and prose brilliantly illuminates a body of writing that has been unjustly neglected by the west for centuries. Robert Irwin's invaluable commentary explains the literary traditions and rules of the medieval Arab world and places the works meticulously in context.… (mer)
Medlem:niallsheekey
Titel:Night and Horses and the Desert: The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature
Författare:Robert Irwin (Författare)
Info:Penguin Books (2000), Edition: New Ed, 480 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:MT17

Verkdetaljer

Nights and horses and the desert av Robert Irwin (1999)

Senast inlagd avLlyfryddwr, steve4746, SoschaF, stillatim, hivetrick, tgorton, ann_s, GhazalF
Efterlämnade bibliotekLeslie Scalapino
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I knew nothing of Arabic literature before I read this book, and now I feel pretty good about how much I know. Inasmuch as it's more than nothing.

This isn't really an 'anthology' at all. Yes, it contains small snippets of texts, and a couple of longer pieces (from the 1001 Nights). But really it's a sampler, with a few paragraphs from dozens of works spanning 10 centuries. In between, we get Irwin's own history of Arabic literature, which is tremendously helpful. He has an eye for good anecdotes, and chooses his texts well too.

We start with the qasida, or, more precisely, mockery of the qasida, a poem that requires its author to pay tribute to ruins, his lady, and his horse or camel, "in many poems one feels that the excellence of the camel more than compensates for the lost lady love." Often a qasida ends with a thunderstorm. But the qasida he includes does have some wonderful lines; a poet makes his escape from danger thanks to a quick thinking woman--

Out I brought her, and as she stepped she trailed behind us
to cover our footprints the skirt of an embroidered gown.

Earlier he'd admired the virgins tossing about the "hacked flesh" of his camel, "and the frilly fat like fringes of twisted silk." This is not the western love poem tradition, and all the better for it.

There were many subcultures of poet. The Sa'alik poets were highwaymen; the futtak were *specialist killers* and poets. One rough sa'alik poet famously said that he loved the world for three things: "to eat flesh, to ride flesh, and to rub against flesh."

Then came the qur'an, for better or worse (just kidding: definitely better. I would not have made a good sa'alik), but the anecdotes continue. Ibn al-Rumi admitted to writing insincere panegyric, but defended himself thus: "God has reproached poets for saying what they do not do, but they are not guilty of this alone, for they say what princes do not do." Poets in the 7th and 8th centuries sat at the feet of 'authentic' arabic poets, who still rode camels and herded animals, finding obscure words like "bahlasa" which means "to arrive suddenly from another country without any luggage." Someone's leg is obviously being pulled here.

The ghazal separated from the qasida in this period, and I grew bored. Love poetry isn't the same without the flayed camel meat.

But the love of obscurity and rhymed prose continued into the tenth century. "Marcasite" is a stone which, if you see it, will make you laugh yourself to death. It can be found in China. But this was also an age of 'adab,' which is a kind of intellectual, literary chivalry or culture. One of its propagators was Jahiz, who sounds like a glorious fellow. He was crushed to death by falling books.

The development of culture continued with the zarif, a kind of connoisseur. Many of these men wrote cookbooks and poems about food; al-Mahdi "compared the turnip to the moon, the stars and to silver coins; the aubergine was another subject of poetic passion." Irwin also includes a poem about asparagus. Surprisingly contemporary! One court poet brought the eggplant to his Sultan, rhapsodizing about it at length. The Sultan tried it, and found it inedible, "whereupon the nadim launched into a lengthy diatribe about the awfulness of the aubergine. 'Just a moment ao you were praising the thing to the skies,' the Sultan expostulated. 'But, sire, I am your nadim, not htat of hte aubergine,' the assiduous courtier replied." Others wrote poems about visiting monasteries and drinking the wine.

Irwin describes the next period, 900-1175, as a great century for poetry and prose, which flourished under Persian influence. Tawhidi was particularly fascinating: "Tawhidi had a conservative temperament and he believed that novelties were for women and children only. He made a habit of consorting with criminals and other low-life types in an age when it was fashionable to study the techniques and argot of such folk." Yes, just like conservatives of *our* age, except way more fun. He wrote a book so "venomous... that there was supposed to be a curse on anyone owning it." But he was also very intelligent: "Nature consequently needs art because it attains its perfection through the rational soul by means of skilful art, which takes by dictation what it lacks, dictating what advenes to it, seeking perfection through what it receives, bestowing perfection to what it bestows." And a pessimist, who wrote about the fsad al-zaman, the rottenness of the age. Tawhidi was associated with the Banu Sasan, litterateurs on the borders of respectable life. Another of them, Hamadhani, wrote hilarious satire, and described his home city, Hamadan: "In ugliness its children are like its old men, and, in reason, its old men are like its children." I feel the same way about Los Angeles.

Many of these chaps wrote in rhyming prose, and one translator in this volume tried to replicate it. It's surprisingly fun: "I went from Irak to Damascus with its green watercourses, in the day when I had troops of fine-bred horses and was the owner of coveted wealth and resources..." They were also very sensitive, and many became vegetarians. Al-Marzuban wrote a book on "The superiority of Dogs over many who wear clothes," which topic really doesn't need a book, since it's so self-evident.

My favorite discovery here, though, is Ma'Ari, who "despised poets in general, for they wrote lies about things like deserted campsites, passionate love affairs, and heroic battle, whereas he was only really interested in telling everybody the truth about how awful life was." His poems are in a difficult form, and are marvellous:

And where the Prince commanded, now the shriek
Of wind is flying through the court of state:
'Here,' it proclaims, 'there dwelt a potentate
Who could not hear the sobbing of the weak.'

He wrote about the afterlife, reportedly believing that it existed only for animals, who "suffered so much in this life that there must be recompense for them elsewhere." Nonetheless, there are people in his report of the afterlife (which may have influenced Dante). Everyone sits around discussing philology and poetry, though hell is also full of poets and philologists. A good Jinn mocks human poetry, which we understand only as cattle understand astronomy, for we "have only fifteen kinds of metre... we have thousands that your litterateur never heard of." Irwin includes a non-arabic tidbit here: St Ephraem wrote that vine stocks in heaven mate with monks who stayed chaste on earth. In the Arabic tradition, "adventurous travelers were delighted to discover, sex grew on trees."

The section on Andalusia was a little less exciting, although the poet-king al-Mu'tadid apparently kept a collection of his enemy's skulls, which he would often look at and weep with compassion. Also, one of the few women in the collection, Wallada, was from Andalusia. One of its best known poets, Ibrahim Ibn Khafaia, used to "walk out of his village of Shuqr until he reached the solitude of a ravine. There he would stand and shout repeatedly at hte top of his voice 'Ibrahim, you will die!' until he fell unconscious.

The final chapter deals with literature from the Seljuk period. Here we find many of the best known Arabic texts: 1001 Nights, writings from the Crusades and so on. These pale, however, next to the book of Usamah, "a keen rhabdophilist," who wrote "The Book of the Stick." He included Moses and Solomon's sticks, as well as those of his friends and himself. This is not a euphemism.

Ibn Daniyal is famous for scurrilous plays, and they do actually sound scurrilous: one "recounts the attempts of a disreputable hunchbacked soldier called Wisal (the name means 'sexual congress') to find a bride. He is assisted by a dishonest marriage-broker... he ends up with a hideous bride, who wants to beat her husband and who farts a lot; but she dies, in time for Wisal to repent his dissolute ways."

And finally, in "The Delectable War between Mutton and the Refreshments of the Market Place," King Mutton puts down a revolt by the poor people's foods, Honey and so on. Sugar, syrup and rendered fat betray Honey to side with Mutton.

Love live Honey.
( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Not much to say; it's a dense book that I read many moons ago. Not the best for reproduction of period poetical forms, as it talks more about the cultural aspects of the form than about the poetry itself. Focuses on early Islam, up to 'Abbasid era.
1 rösta asim | Sep 15, 2005 |
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Also published as the Penguin Anthology of Arabic Literature.
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Spanning the fifth century to the sixteenth, and ranging from Afghanistan to Spain, this unique collection provides a profound insight into the sheer vitality and depth of Classical Arabic literature. From the earliest surviving fragments of The Thousand and One Nights to the elegant beauty and profound power of the Qur'an - believed by the Islamic faith to contain the actual words of Allah - it includes translated extracts from all the major works of the period, alongside many less well-known but equally fascinating pieces. Exploring such traditional themes as lovesick yearning and fated doom, and considering subjects as diverse as the etiquette of falling in love with slave-girls and the terrors of the sea. This compelling anthology of poetry and prose brilliantly illuminates a body of writing that has been unjustly neglected by the west for centuries. Robert Irwin's invaluable commentary explains the literary traditions and rules of the medieval Arab world and places the works meticulously in context.

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