Saturday, 31 October 2009

A Collection of Short Stories in Persian

Just Published

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Mohammad Hoqouqi

Mohammad Hoqouqi, Iranian poet and literary critic, passed away yesterday. It has been through his selections of contemporary Persian poetry and commentary that many of us learnt how to deal with poetry.

The flower felt down on soil and slept
O martyrs of garden! behold, another martyr.

M. Azad

گل از شاخه بر خاك افتاد و خفت
شهيدان باغ، اين شهيدي دگر

م. آزاد

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Balavariani

Been thought for long as a hagiographical account, the Balavariani (ბალავარიანი, بلوریانی)is an essential part of the spread and re-emergence of a Manichaean text under various titles such as the story of Belavhar va Buzasf, Belohar va Budasef, Barlaam and Josaphat, Barlaam and Ioasaph, The King's son and the Ascetic, etc. Travelling through a number of cultures in the course of centuries, it is an ancient story found in Arabic, Pahlavi, Uygur, Old Georgian, Greek and a number of other languages. The Balavariani is the old Georgian, Christianized rendition of the story, first translated and published in English by D.M. Lang based on Abuladze's edition (1).
The style of the narrative being story within story, the frame is that of the Buddha legend as found in Buddha Karita (2). Adapted by the Manichaeans of eastern Persia (3), the core legend was added to through a number of allegorical stories and fables. One of these stories, the Parable of the Sower, shows a clear biblical borrowing (4). In the course of this westward move, the Buddha's birth story became a favourite literary tool that served the Manichaean creed in its renouncing the materialistic and the worldly desires.

Notwithstanding the fact that it has now four decades passed since the publication of The Balavariani in English and Kitâb Bilawhar wa Buudaasaf [Le Livre de Bilawhar et Budasaf] in Arabic and French (5), the findings of generations of scholars culminating in Daniel Gimaret's publication of the oldest account of the story still remains valid. the Ismaili-Arabic account, known also as Bombay version, is the oldest extant text of the story. However, as has been pointed out by various scholars (6), and taking into consideration the complicated, finished form of the story which cannot be an overnight production, this account is a translation of a still older version of the story no copy of it so far has been found.
The latest important step in the field is the publication for the first time of a fifteenth-century Persian version entitled, Belawhar va Boyuzasf by Nezam Tabrizi (7). As the author claims in his introduction, this text is an abridged variant of a still older Persian manuscript. A close reading reveals that Nezam's version, in comparison to the oldest extant text, provides textual evidences closer to Buddha legend as told in Buddha-Karita (8). Gimaret, also, anticipates this by stating, "rien ne prouve donc que la tradition représentée par B[ombay]/I[bn] B[abuya] soit moins ancienne que l'autre [Kitâb Bilawhar wa Buudaasaf]. Le contraire serait même plus vraisemblable." (9) This version, also, has two stories among its allegories that are not preserved in all available recenssions (10).

The source of Old Georgian Balavariani is a matter of controversy. In his 'introduction' to the only English publication of the book in 1966, I.V. Abuladze supports the view of D.M. Lang that the text was adapted from the Ismaili version (11). In contrast, placing Balavariani and Ibn Babuyeh's version in the same tradition (12), Daniel Gimaret goes on to say that, "il semble cependant difficile de supposer que la version arabe- du moins celle que nous connaissons- ait servi directment de modèle pour la version géorgienne," (p. 59). However, the matter is complicated by taking into consideration that the Balavariani is closer to Ibn Babuyeh account (13) only in the first two books. The Book Three of the Georgian version takes a different turn by relating individual adventures of Iodasaph, getting close to Ismaili version but, at the same time, leaving out all Buddhist traces.
In spite of the disagreements on the origin of the Georgian text, it is assumed that Balavariani is the medium by which the story moves still further west from the Abbassid muslim world and is changed from a non-religious ascetic story to a Christian hagiographical account. It is in this rendering that we read the first Christian references the Georgian translator puts into Blahvar's mouth in the second book and Iodasaph's in the last one. It is as a result of translating this version to the Greek language that Barlaam and Ioasaph becomes a full-fledged Christian narrative burdened with a large volume of redundant sayings, prayers, biblical verses, etc (14). The same transformation happens in Nezam Tabrizi's version that the author not only interpolates piles of irrelevant materials into the story, but also changes it to a Shiite tract.

Studying the narrative is not a finished task. Until fresh evidences are provided by the appearance of other manuscripts of the story, studying neglected Gimaret's culminating works, and a wider introduction of the published Persian manuscript will undoubtedly be rewarding for Balavariani scholars.

1 David Marshall Lang, trans., The Balavariani (Barlaam and Josaphat): A Tale from the Christian East translated from the Old Georgian, Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1966.
2 Asvaghosa, The Buddha-karita, trans. by E.B. Cowell, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1984 [scanned and proofed by Chris Weimar at, March, 2002, 27/5/2004].
3 Henning, W.B., "A Sogdian fragment of Manichaean cosmogony", Acta Iranica 15, pp. 301-313.
4 Cf. Gospel according to Mathew (ch. 13, 3-23).
5 Gimaret, D., trans, Le Livre de Bilawhar et Būđāsf selon la version arab ismaélienne, Genève et Paris: Librairie Droz, 1971.
6 Gimaret, 57
7 Mowlānā Nezām, Belawhar va Boyuzasf, edit. by Mohammad Rowšan, Tehran: Mirās-e Maktub, 2002.
8 Cf. Nozari, Jalil, Belavhar Nameh [The Book of Belavhar], (annex 8 in Ayeneh Miras series), Tehran: Mirasmaktoob, 2006.
9 Gimaret, 58
10 Nozari, 56-58 (Persian), 17-20 (English)
11 D.M. Lang, 36.
12 Gimaret, 56
13 Sheikh Saduqh, Kamal-e Deen va Tamam ol-Ne'mah, trans. by Mohammad B. Kamre'ie, vol II. Tehran: Katab Forushee Eslamieh, 1377 (1998).
14 See WOODWARD, G.R. and H. Mattingly, edit. and trans. Barlaam and Ioasaph, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914, etc.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A fire-Altar beneath Echmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia

Participating in the conference "The Middle East and the Caucasus: History, Realities and Perspectives" in Yerevan, Armenia, I had a chance to visit Echmiadzin Cathedral on Friday, November 07, 2008. The excursion was arranged by the conference organisers, the Institute of Oriental Studies of Armenian National Academy of Sciences. By the kindness of our Armenian host, we were able to see a Mazdayee/ Zoroastrian construction, a fire-altar, beneath the main altar of the cathedral. Unearthed in 1950, The fire-place is surrounded by a wall, and there is a kind of complicated carved design facing it on the opposite wall. The existence of such a worship place goes with the legend that Christ came down from heaven with a hammer to destroy a pagan temple and show where the church has to be built. The place is closed to ordinary visitors.

Fortunately, I was able take some photos and shoot two short movies, though not in good quality, by my digital camera. I upload them here. A photo shows the entrance to the construction, while the other looks to the entrance from inside. The design on the wall opposite to the altar is shown in the third one. While narrating the scene, I made a mistake, corrected shortly afterwards, by describing the design on the wall as a "Lotus flower", an ancient Persian symbols carved on many historical remains.
The three photos and two movies © Jalil Nozari
More information in Wikipedia which has a reference to this construction under "Archaeological traces" (click here).

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Georgian - Persian Dictionary

Georgian-Persian Dictionary by Nowrouz Lachinani, Esfahan: Sepahan Publishers, 1386 (2007) is the first of its kind in our recent history.

The following is in Georgian: the characters will not be legible on your desktop unless a Georgian font is installed:
ქართშლ–სპარსული ლექსიკონი (ნუგზარ ლაჩინანი)
You find more information in Georgian by clicking here.

A short account of the Georgian paper follows. I am indebted to dear Manana Kock-Kobaidze, University of Malmö, for providing the link and the English rendering:

"Jamsheed Giunashvili gives a short overview of the history of Georgian-Persian dictionaries. One was compiled in the 17th century by Gorgidzhanidze, some new short
Persian-Georgian dictionaries were compiled and published in Georgia in the 20th century and then one a bit longer dictionary (2500 words) was published in Iran in 2004 as an appendix to Leila Geguchadze's Georgian for Persian learners. The book was published in Rasht, Iran.
The latest Georgian-Persian dictionary compiled by Nouruz (Nugzar)Lachinani includes 16000 words. It was published in 3000 ex. in 2007."

Is a Semiotic Reading hopefully Possible?

According to an obituary on Harvard University website, Samuel Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations, died on December 24, 2008.
Since the release of the book, particularly as from the beginning of the current millennium, the world has entered into a hellish situation we are facing now: 9/11, terrors, wars, occupations, shattered economies, etc.
Now, the call for change is widespread, manifested not only in the election results at home, but also the throw of shoes abroad. It is exactly at this time that the death of the foreteller of cultural clashes is announced. What makes Mr. Huntington's death more symbolic is that it happened on December 24, a day before Christmas, the birth of Christ, which is the birth of Mithra, the Sun god.
I am not glad of his death, because "Every man's death diminishes me," and I know the answer "For whom the bells toll?"- It's not only for Huntington and Edward Said, it's for me too. I only hope that Prof. Huntington's demise is the end of an era that has had catastrophic consequences for our Planet ship's passengers.

به گزارش سايت دانشگاه هاروارد ساموئل هانتيگتون هفته ی پيش در 24 دسامبر درگذشت. انتشار کتاب "جنگ تمدن ها" سرآغاز دورانی شد که با توحش عمليات 11 سپتامبر، جنگ ها، کشتارها و اشغال های بعدی به فجايعی منجر شد که جهان امروز ما را مبتلای خود کرده است.
خواست تغيير اکنون از همه جا بگوش می رسد، نه تنها از داخل خود ايالات متحده که خود را در نتايج انتخاب نشان داد، بلکه حتی در پرتاب آن دو لنگه کفشی که مشهور همگان است. درست در چنين وقتی است که مرگ پيش گو اعلام می شود. آن چه اين مرگ را به لحاظ نشانه شناختی مهم تر می کند وقوع آن در شب کريسمس، شب تولد ميترا و فرازتر شدن خورشيد است.
من از مرگ پرفسور هانتينگتون، هم چنان که از مرگ هيچ انسان ديگری خوش حال نمی شوم. "مرگ هر انسانی از من می کاهد"، هم چنان که مرگ ادوارد سعيد چنين کرد، و اين زنگ ها برای من و تو است که به صدا در می آيد. اما، آرزو می کنم درگذشت او مرگ دورانی باشد که زندگی همه ی سرنشينان کشتی سياره ی ما را دست خوش اين همه رنج کرد.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Some corners of Baagh (باغ)

To put in display some corners of the Baagh (باغ), I post here eight photos from places of respect in and around Hamadan, the old city of western part of Iran. I have taken them from a collection of sixteen photos published by Fardin Chardowli.

Ganj Nameh Inscriptions کتیبه های گنج نامه- Two rock carving inscription panels, written in cuneiform, belonging to Acamenid era

The Armenian Grigori Stephanos Church کلیسای گرگوری استپانوس- rebuilt in 1931, part of Hegmataneh complex

Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai آرامگاه استر و مردخای- building belongs to 7th century A.H.

Tomb of Prophet Habakkuk آرامگاه حبقوق نبی- a minor prophet of the Old Testament, 700 BCE. The building belongs to the Seleucid era

Jame Mosque مسجد جامع- built originally in the Safavid period, rebuilt and expanded in Qhajars period

Gonabad-e Alavian گنبد علويان- tombs of two members of Alavi family, Seleucid era

Avicenna Mausoleum آرامگاه پور سينا- tomb of the Persian philosopher Ebn Sina, constructed 1330 Solar A.H.

Tomb of Baba Taher آرامگاه بابا طاهر عريان- Persian poet and mystic. His couplets are of the most appealing ones in Persian poetry.
چو شو گيرم خيال تو در آغوش
سحر از بسترم بوی گل آيو