Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Haddad, Qassim. Trans. Ferial Ghazoul & John Verlenden. (2014). Chronicles of Majnun Layla & Selected Poems. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. ISBN: 9780815610373

This was a beautiful book in the Arabic tradition of Akhbar Majnun Layla, which the translators chose to phrase as the Chronicles of Majnun Layla. It is a common genre in Arabic literature about a man named Qays who wanders the desert, mad with desire for Layla, who he cannot have. I really enjoyed learning about the genre through this book. Haddad is a Bahraini poet, who elevates the tale beyond a Romeo and Juliet story into the story of a poet and the Word. It also reminded me a bit of Abelard and Heloise, and I am now psyched to research the influence of Majnun Layla tales on that story. The edition also includes some of his poems in translation, which are eloquent. Phrases like this stick out, "A mountain goat--wind defeating his horns--/makes light/of a mountain rock." That reminds me of another point. Some of the Majnun Layla poetry echoed parts of the Song of Solomon and the book of Revelation where Christ spreads his tents wide for His Bride. It is wonderful to trace a literature back to those fundamental, shared roots. This book has helped me grow as a reader. Another Arabic into English translation I'm so thankful I didn't miss.

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