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Books

Persian Prose

Utas, Bo (ed.). 2021. Persian prose (A history of Persian literature V). London: I.B. Tauris.

Volume V of A History of Persian Literature presents a broad survey of Persian prose: from biographical, historiographical, and didactic prose, to scientific manuals and works of popular prose fiction. It analyzes the rhetorical devices employed by writers in different periods in their philosophical and political discourse; or when their aim is primarily to entertain rather than to instruct , the chapters describe different techniques used to transform old stories and familiar tales into novel versions to entice their audience.

Many of the texts in prose cited in the volume share a wealth of common lore and literary allusions with Persian poetry. Prose and poetry frequently appear on the same page in tandem. In different ways, therefore, this creative interplay demonstrates the perennial significance of intertextuality, from the earliest times to the present; and help us in the process to further our understanding and enhance our enjoyment of Persian literature in its different manifestations throughout history.

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Books

Studies in Persian Language and Literature in Honour of Paola Orsatti

Maggi, Mauro, and Mohsen Ashtiany, eds. A turquoise coronet: Studies in Persian language and literature in honour of Paola Orsatti. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2021.

Paola Orsatti is currently professor at La Sapienza University in Rome. In the course of a long and distinguished academic career combined with an impressive record of dedicated teaching, she has made significant contributions to the study of classical Persian poetry, its connections with pre-Islamic traditions, the history of the Persian language, and Islamic manuscripts. Along with a profile of the dedicatee and a comprehensive bibliography of her publications up to 2019, the volume contains eighteen papers by her colleagues, friends, and former students to celebrate her 65th birthday. The papers mirror her diverse research interests. They deal with a variety of themes relating to Persian literature from Middle Persian texts to twentieth-century poetry—approached philologically, historically, and critically—as well as to the history of Middle and New Persian and the dialects of Iran, and include significant Persian literary texts translated and edited for the first time in this volume.

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Books

The Judeo-Persian rendition of the Buddha biographies

Yasharpour, Dalia. 2021. The Prince and the Sufi: the Judeo-Persian rendition of the Buddha biographies (The Brill Reference Library of Judaism 62). Leiden: Brill.

The Prince and the Sufi is the literary composition of the seventeenth-century Judeo-Persian poet Elisha ben Shmūel. In The Prince and the Sufi: The Judeo-Persian Rendition of the Buddha Biographies, Dalia Yasharpour provides a thorough analysis of this popular work to show how the Buddha’s life story has undergone substantial transformation with the use of Jewish, Judeo-Persian and Persian-Islamic sources. The annotated edition of the text and the corresponding English translation are meticulous and insightful. This scholarly study makes available to readers an important branch in the genealogical tree of the Buddha Biographies.

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Books

Indian storytelling and the romance genre in Persian and Urdu

Khan, Pasha M. 2019. The broken spell: Indian storytelling and the romance genre in Persian and Urdu (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

The Broken Spell: Indian Storytelling and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu is a monograph on the rise and fall in popularity of “romances” (qissah)—tales of wonder and magic told by storytellers at princely courts and in public spaces in India from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. Using literary genre theory, author Pasha M. Khan points to the worldviews underlying the popularity of Urdu and Persian romances, before pre-existing Islamicate rationalist traditions gained traction and Western colonialism came to prominence in India.

In the introduction, Khan explains that it was around the end of the nineteenth century that these marvelous tales became devalued by Orientalists and intellectually colonized Indian elites, while at the same time a new genre, the novel, gained legitimacy. Khan goes on to narrate the life histories of professional storytellers, many of them émigrés from Iran to Mughal-ruled India, and considers how they raised their own worth and that of the romance in the face of changes in the economics, culture, and patronage of India. Khan shows the methods whereby such storytellers performed and how they promoted themselves and their art. The dividing line between marvelous tales and history is examined, showing how and why the boundary was porous. The study historicizes the Western understanding of the qissah as a local manifestation of a worldwide romance genre, showing that this genre equation had profound ideological effects. The book’s appendix contains a translation of an important text for understanding Iranian and Indian storytelling methods: the unpublished introductory portions to Fakhr al-Zamani’s manual for storytellers.

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Books

Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism

Kia, Mana. Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2020.

For centuries, Persian was the language of power and learning across Central, South, and West Asia, and Persians received a particular basic education through which they understood and engaged with the world. Not everyone who lived in the land of Iran was Persian, and Persians lived in many other lands as well. Thus to be Persian was to be embedded in a set of connections with people we today consider members of different groups. Persianate selfhood encompassed a broader range of possibilities than contemporary nationalist claims to place and origin allow. We cannot grasp these older connections without historicizing our conceptions of difference and affiliation.

Mana Kia sketches the contours of a larger Persianate world, historicizing place, origin, and selfhood through its tradition of proper form: adab. In this shared culture, proximities and similarities constituted a logic that distinguished between people while simultaneously accommodating plurality. Adab was the basis of cohesion for self and community over the turbulent eighteenth century, as populations dispersed and centers of power shifted, disrupting the circulations that linked Persianate regions. Challenging the bases of protonationalist community, Persianate Selves seeks to make sense of an earlier transregional Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms.

About the author

Mana Kia is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University.

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Journal

Iranian Studies (vol. 52, issue 5-6)

Issue 5-6 of Vol. 52 (2019) of the journal Iranian Studies with special interest to the Persian poet Saʿdi has now been published.

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Books

Persian Lyric Poetry

Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). 2019. Persian lyric poetry in the classical era, 800-1500: Ghazals, panegyrics and quatrains (A History of Persian Literature 2). London: I.B. Tauris.

The second volume in this series presents the reader with an extensive study of some major genres of Persian poetry from the first centuries after the rise of Islam to the end of the Timurid era and the inauguration of Safavid rule in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The authors explore the development of poetic genres, from the panegyric (qaside), to short lyrical poems (ghazal), and the quatrains (roba’i), tracing the stylistic evolution of Persian poetry up to 1500 and examine the vital role of these poetic forms within the rich landscape of Persian literature.

A History of Persian Literature is a 20-volume authoritative survey reflects the stature and significance of Persian literature as the single most important accomplishment of the Iranian experience. It includes extensive, revealing examples with contributions by prominent scholars who bring a fresh critical approach to bear on this important topic.

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Books

The Deccan Sultanates

Flatt, Emma. 2019. The courts of the Deccan Sultanates: Living well in the Persian cosmopolis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, courtliness was crucial to the political and cultural life of the Deccan. Divided between six states competing for territory, resources and skills, the medieval and early modern Deccan was a region of striking ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. People used multifaceted trans-regional networks – mercantile, kinship, friendship and intellectual – to move across the Persian-speaking world and to find employment at the Deccan courts. This movement, Emma J. Flatt argues, was facilitated by the existence of a shared courtly disposition. Engagement in courtly skills such as letter-writing, perfume-making, astrological divination, performing magic, sword-fighting and wrestling thus became a route to both worldly success and ethical refinement. Using a diverse range of treatises, chronicles, poetry and letters, Flatt unpicks the ways this challenged networks of acceptable behaviour and knowledge in the Indo-Islamicate courtly world – and challenges the idea of perpetual hostility between Islam and Hinduism in Indian history.

Source: The Courts of the Deccan Sultanates | Cambridge University Press

Emma J. Flatt is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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Books

India in the Persianate age

Eaton, Richard Maxwell. 2019. India in the Persianate age, 1000-1765. Oakland, California: University of California Press.

Protected by vast mountains and seas, the Indian subcontinent might seem a nearly complete and self-contained world with its own religions, philosophies, and social systems. And yet this ancient land and its varied societies experienced prolonged and intense interaction with the peoples and cultures of East and Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, and especially Central Asia and the Iranian plateau.

Richard M. Eaton tells this extraordinary story with relish and originality, as he traces the rise of Persianate culture, a many-faceted transregional world connected by ever-widening networks across much of Asia. Introduced to India in the eleventh century by dynasties based in eastern Afghanistan, this culture would become progressively indigenized in the time of the great Mughals (sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries). Eaton brilliantly elaborates the complex encounter between India’s Sanskrit culture—an equally rich and transregional complex that continued to flourish and grow throughout this period—and Persian culture, which helped shape the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and a host of regional states. This long-term process of cultural interaction is profoundly reflected in the languages, literatures, cuisines, attires, religions, styles of rulership and warfare, science, art, music, and architecture—and more—of South Asia.

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Articles

Khargāh and Other Terms for Tents in Firdawsī’s Shāh-nāmah

Durand-Guédy, David. 2018. Khargāh and other terms for tents in Firdawsī’s Shāh-nāmah. Iranian Studies 51(6), 819–849.

This article aims to contribute to the wider debate on the historicity of the Shāh-nāmahby focusing on the way Firdawsī uses the word khargāh. The word, which is first attested in Rūdakī poetry, has not been dealt with adequately in previous scholarship dedicated to the Shāh-nāmah. An analysis of all the occurrences in the text provides results consistent with those obtained from contemporary sources: the khargāhappeared in Central Asia (here, Tūrān); it was the standard dwelling of Turkic-speaking pastoral nomads (here, Tūrānians), whatever their social rank; and it was adopted later as a status symbol by non-Turkish elites (here, during Kay-Khusraw’s reign). In Firdawsī’s Shāh-nāmah khargāh should therefore also be understood as the type of framed tent known as “trellis tent” (the so-called yurt).