Tag Archives: Hafez

“The Liberal mind is oversexualized…” says تاریخ خراسان

25 Dec

I agree. But the continued bowdlerizing of mediaeval Islamic poetry is a problem.

See: The beautiful “Shirazi Turk”-ish kid from the corny German commercial

Or, from one of my earliest posts on Persian poetry:

“The crucial surrender here, of course, is to ignore the full spectrum of interpretations – from the religious pedant’s to the equally irritating contemporary gay ‘reads’ (those of what Joseph Massad calls “The Gay International”) – about whether the flame is God or your spiritual master or a hot kid and really surrender the urge to interpret entirely, forget about metaphor, stop the transference, which is what “metaphora” means in Greek, something that the ghazal’s connected/disconnected structure is so conducive to and which gives it so much of its power  — and which probably leads to the common assumption of untranslatability.”

And here’s the full post:

Become a moth

20 May

Shajarian and a very young Homayoun perform the Molana-Rumi verse (with Alizadeh and Kalhor)

Perhaps the main reason I started my attempt to learn Farsi was pure spite (the other was to go to Afghanistan).  I had gotten tired of asking Iranians whether they liked this or that translation of Saadi or Hafez and being smugly told or categorically barked at: “NO! None of them; Persian poetry can’t be translated,” or reading some poor soul on You Tube gush: “My God, what beautiful music!  Can someone translate the lyrics, please?!!” only to be shot down by an Iranian: “you dont know all the metaphors references you won’t understand you cant translate poetry.”  Well, yes you can translate poetry, ‘cause if you can’t, you can’t translate anything else either.  Or you can create a set of reasonably analogous concepts that gives the other language-speaker a strongly analogous idea, at least, and just as strong a sensory feel.  In the end, the set of incommunicable ideas we’ve each got locked in our heads is pretty much as different as that between any two languages, so if you doubt translation you’re doubting the hope of any human communication really – which might, I understand, be a reasonable theory.  But we’ll forgive the Persians their snobbery because, as they say in Spanish in an expression I love: “tienen con que…” literally “they got what with…” meaning “they have reason to be” or “they a have a right to…”

But then there’s this sweet and very generous attempt of one You Tube reader to give an almost calque-like translation of this Rumi piece:

If you are going to the drunkards, become drunk

If you go towards the drunk, go drunkenly! Go drunkenly! (mastâne is a compound from mast (drunk) and the prefix -âne, which is_ a particularizer (pertaining to the qualities of X, in a X manner) e.g. from mard we have mardâne (men’s, for men; …

You should become all soul, until you are worthy of the spirits[?]

You should become all soul until you become deserving the sweetheart (beloved)

And then become the cup [?] that holds the wine of love

And then become a cup for the wine of love! Become a cup! (in English, if I’m not mistaken, one says “become a member of X” so I translated it as “become a cup…” rather than “become the cup”)

Make your heart like the [other] hearts [?], wash it seven times [till it is free] of grudges

Go and wash the chest of hatreds seven-water-ly like [real] chests (chest is the house of heart. I think, in English, one says “like a [real] chest”. Ancient people believed that washing something with water of seven seas makes it purely clean.)

And then come live with the lovers

And then, come [and] become homemate with lovers! Become homemate! (ham- = homo-, xâne = home -> homo-home like homo-phone but anyway: homemate)

Become a stranger to yourself, ruin your own home [destroy the_ nafs]

[both] make yourself alien (stranger) and make the house ruined (I think it means “desert your past and your belongings”)

And from the heart of the flame, come out, become a moth

And into fire, enter! Become a butterfly! Become a butterfly! (candle (šamë)

Abandon your deceit, O lover, become mad

O lover, abandon deceit! Become mad! Become mad! (hilat is Arabic_ form of hila -> hile. In Persian, we have sometimes taken an Arabic word as -at and sometimes as -a. Well, as for hilat, it’s not found in common Persian and we only say hila/e)

And a Farsi transliteration, not all included in the above performance:

Aan goushvaar-e shaahedaan, hamsohbat-eh aarez shodeh,

Aan goush-e aarez baayadat! dordaaneh sho, dordaaneh sho(2),

Chon Jaan-e to shod dar hava, zafsaneh-ye shiereen-eh ma,

Faany sho O chon aasheghaan! afsaaneh_ sho, afsaaneh sho(2),

Andiesheh-at Jaaie ravad, aangah to ra aanja barad

zaandisheh bogzar chon ghaza! pieshaaneh sho, pieshaaneh sho(2)

O Hielat Raha kon aashegha! divaneh sho, divaneh sho(2),

Vandar del-e aHam khiesh ra bigaaneh kon, ham khaaneh ra viraneh kon,

Vaangah bia ba aasheghaa! hamkhaaneh sho, hamshaaneh sho(2),atash dar a! parvaneh sho, parvaneh sho(2)

Ro sieneh ra chon sieneh ha, haft aab_ shoo az kieneh ha,

Vaangah sharaab-e eshgh ra! peymaaneh sho, peymaaneh sho(2),

The moth-and-flame is one of the most classic of those ‘untranslatable’ metaphors: the constant injunction to become a moth and throw yourself into the flame, surrender to the annihilation of love.  The crucial surrender here, of course, is to ignore the full spectrum of interpretations – from the religious pedant’s to the equally irritating contemporary gay ‘reads’ (those of what Joseph Massad calls “The Gay International”) – about whether the flame is God or your spiritual master or a hot kid and really surrender the urge to interpret entirely, forget about metaphor, stop the transference, which is what “metaphora” means in Greek, something that the ghazal’s connected/disconnected structure is so conducive to and which gives it so much of its power  — and which probably leads to the common assumption of untranslatability.  This is what Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry does so successfully in English.

That said, I’ve never seen a moth actually do this.  I’ve heard mosquitoes incessantly frying themselves on those machines on summer nights in the sweltering plains of northern Greece while I’m trying to enjoy a roast pig crackling, but not a moth actually burn itself in a candle or other flame — or maybe Persian moths are greater emotional risk-takers.  In my experience, whenever a moth runs into trouble around light it’s usually ended up like this guy who I found in my icon lamp.

And this is what I’ve found most contemporary humans’ experience of love to be too: stuck in a viscous mess, your wings oil-logged, pedaling frantically and unable to escape your slow suffocation till life picks you out with a paper-towel and squishes you.  Don’t we wish it were instant incineration; we’d save ourselves much pointless humiliation.  But our hearts just aren’t up to such sacrificial leaps into the abyss anymore.

“Whom the flame itself has gone looking for, that moth — just imagine!” – Bollywood song

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

*********************************************************************************************************

Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

The beautiful “Shirazi Turk”-ish kid from the corny German commercial

24 Dec

As if that German commercial of the Turkish family cooking for their sullen German neighbor (redundant? “sullen German”?) didn’t pull enough heartstrings, the family’s son, who has the idea of approaching the old man, is a knock-out.

Makes one think of Hafez. Yes, I know this particular poem is quoted to death, but it’s one of the first that really grabbed me when I first discovered Persian poetry:

1.

اگر آن ترک شیرازی به دست آرد دل ما را‎ به خال هندویش بخشم سمرقند و بخارا را‎

‘agar ‘ān Tork-e Šīrāzī * be dast ārad del-ē mā-rābe xāl-ē Hendu-yaš baxšam Samarqand ō Boxārā-rā

If that Shirazi Turk accepts my heart in their hand, for their Indian mole I will give Samarkand and Bukhara.

2.

بده ساقی می باقی که در جنت نخواهی یافت‎ کنار آب رکن آباد و گلگشت مصلا را‎

bedeh, sāqī, mey-ē bāqī ke dar jannat naxāhī yāftkenār-ē āb-e Roknābād o golgašt-ē Mosallā-rā

Wine-pourer, give the rest of wine, since in heaven you will not find the banks of the water of Roknabad and the rose-walk of Mosalla.

3.

فغان کاین لولیان شوخ شیرین کار شهرآشوب‎ چنان بردند صبر از دل که ترکان خوان یغما را‎

faqān k-īn lūliyān-ē šūx -e šīrīnkār-e šahrāšūbčonān bordānd sabr az del ke Torkān xān-e yaqmā-rā

Alas for these mischievous gypsies who do sweet things and make the town riot! they have stolen the patience from my heart like Turks at a banquet of plunder.

4.

ز عشق ناتمام ما جمال یار مستغنی است‎ به آب و رنگ و خال و خط چه حاجت روی زیبا را‎

ze ‘ešq-ē nātamām-ē mā jamāl-ē yār mostaqnī-stbe āb ō rang o xāl ō xat če hājat rūy-e zībā-rā?

Of our imperfect love the glory of the beloved is independent; what need does a beautiful face have for powder and colour and mole and line?

5.

من از آن حسن روزافزون که یوسف داشت دانستم‎ که عشق از پرده عصمت برون آرد زلیخا را‎

man az ‘ān hosn-e rūz-afzūn ke Yūsof dāšt dānestamke ‘ešq az parde-yē ‘esmat borūn ārad Zoleyxā-rā

I have learnt, from that daily-increasing beauty that Joseph had, that Love will bring Zoleykha out from behind the curtain of modesty.

6.

اگر دشنام فرمایی و گر نفرین دعا گویم‎ جواب تلخ می‌زیبد لب لعل شکرخا را‎

agar došnām farmā’ī * v-agar nefrīn do’ā gūyamjavāb-ē talx mīzībad * lab-ē la’l-ē šekarxā-rā

Even if you speak harshly, and even if you curse me, I am grateful; a bitter answer beautifies a ruby-red sugar-chewing lip.

7.

نصیحت گوش کن جانا که از جان دوست‌تر دارند‎ جوانان سعادتمند پند پیر دانا را‎

nasīhat gūš kon, jānā, ke ‘az jān dūst-tar dārandjavānān-ē sa’ādatmand pand-ē pīr-e dānā-rā

Listen to advice, my soul, since even more valuable than their soul youths who seek happiness hold the advice of a knowledgeable elder.

8.

حدیث از مطرب و می گو و راز دهر کمتر جو‎ که کس نگشود و نگشاید به حکمت این معما را‎

hadīs az motreb-ō mey gū * vo rāz-ē dahr kamtar jūke kas nagšūd o nagšāyad * be hekmat ‘īn mo’ammā-rā

Tell a tale of minstrel and wine, and seek the secret of time less, since no one has ever solved or will ever solve this riddle with wisdom.

9.

غزل گفتی و در سفتی بیا و خوش بخوان حافظ‎ که بر نظم تو افشاند فلک عقد ثریا را‎

qazal goftī o dor softī * biyā vō xoš bexān, Hāfezke bar nazm-ē to afšānad * falak ‘egd-ē Sorayyā-rā

You have completed your poem and pierced the pearl; come and sing beautifully, Hafez, that on your compositions Heaven may scatter the necklace of the Pleiades.

*********************************************************************************************************

Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

“Might they open the doors of the wine shops And loosen their hold on our knotted lives? If shut to satisfy the ego of the puritan Take heart, for they will reopen to satisfy God.” — Hafez

3 Nov

WineryimageFrom Pulse News: Beer, wine flow in West Bank Christian hamlet”  by TIA GOLDENBERG | November 3, 2014

TAYBEH, West Bank (AP) — A tiny Christian enclave in the overwhelmingly Muslim West Bank has for years crafted the only Palestinian beer and brought thousands of visitors flocking to its annual beer fest. Now, it is adding wine to its list of libations, hoping a boutique winery will be another tourist draw and contribute to keeping the small village afloat.

While Christians around the Middle East have seen their numbers dwindle due to conflict and the lure of better economic opportunities abroad, Taybeh has remained an exclusively Christian village, the last in the West Bank.

The family behind the wine and beer says they are carrying out “peaceful resistance” by investing in their homeland and staying put.

“This is how we believe the state of Palestine can be built: by people like us to invest in the country and encourage other Palestinians to come and invest in their country,” said Nadim Khoury, who founded the brewery and winery.

I’ve always been fascinated by the association, in so much Persian(ate) poetry, of alcohol with non-Muslims — and by extension, licentiousness, sexual desire, subversiveness, sin, etc.  There’s probably a dissertation out there somewhere that I should try looking for.  I thought about it a lot in my rant on the Gezi Park protests and the symbolic importance of Pera in the İstanbul imaginary that I wrote from Kabul last November.  In fact, it was pretty much the thesis of the piece:

“And here we run into our first paradox, or the origins of a chain of paradox: that this now central “heart” of Istanbul began as a space of marginality.  The Byzantines originally put some of their unwanted Catholics there: Galata’s mother city is actually Genoa.  In Ottoman times, Christians and Jews lived there and made wine and everybody else came there to drink it.  While not an exclusionary, extramural ghetto of any sort – to their credit the Ottomans didn’t often do that kind of thing – it was sort of the wrong side of the tracks: the Ottoman equivalent of the suburbs or the across-the-river Zoroastrian neighborhoods in Iran where Hafez and company went to drink the infidel’s wine and torment themselves with the beauty of the innkeeper’s son: the other side of town, the refuge of disbelief and transgression, of unorthodoxy and the unorthodox in every sense.  The alcohol…”

…….

If 2013’s protests then – at least Istanbul’s –were at their core about protecting aspects of the essential urbanity of Istanbul, and Greeks played such a large role in shaping that urbanity, shouldn’t that be acknowledged?  If Turkish society is playing out – again, at least in Istanbul – its most intense culture wars on a ghost blueprint of vanished minorities, then wouldn’t making that a more explicit part of the contest be immensely productive – all around.

See it all:Nobody really cares about Gezi Park: Greek thoughts on the protests of 2013

 

image007

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: