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Introduction: Nizami Ganjavi and His Poetry

  • Kamran Talattof
  • Jerome W. Clinton

Abstract

The poet Nizami Ganjavi (1140–1202) is one of the giants of the Persian literary tradition. As a narrative poet, he stands between Abolqasem Firdawsi (ca. 940–ca. 1020), the poet of Iran’s heroic tradition and the author of the Shahnamah (Book of Kings), and Jalaluddin Rumi (1207–1273), whose Divan-i kabir (Great Divan) and Kitab-i Masnavi Ma’navi (Spiritual Couplets) virtually define the forms of mystical lyric and mystical narrative poetry, respectively. Nizami’s narrative poetry is more comprehensive than that of either Firdawsi or Rumi, in that it includes the romantic dimensions of human relations as well the heroic, and plumbs the human psyche with an unprecedented depth and understanding. To be sure, a profound spiritual consciousness pervades his poetry, and to suggest otherwise would be to do him a disservice, but he does not, as does Rumi, make the whole focus of his work the evocation and articulation of the transcendent dimension of existence.

Keywords

Literary History Twelfth Century Islamic World Transcendent Dimension Arabic Literature 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    The word sokhan and its derivatives and compound forms such as sokhandan, sokhanvar, sokhan afarin, sokhan parvar, sokhan ravan, sokhan shinas, and sokhan gostar, all meaning referring to poets are abundant in Nizami’s work. On the subject of the importance of sokhan in Nizami’s work, see Hamid Dabashi, “Harf-i nakhostin: mafhum-i sokhan dar nazd-i hakim Nizami Ganjavi,” Iranshenasi, vol. 3, no. 4 (Winter 1992), 723–40 and the discussion of this topic in chapter 3 of this volume.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia (Cambridge, 1964) vol. 2, p. 403.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Wilhelm Bacher, Nizami’s Leben und Werke und der zweite Theil des Nizamishcen Alexanderbuches, mit persischen Texten als Anhang (Leipzig, 1871). Bacher bases his study on a careful reading of the poet’s own work. Vahid Dastgirdi provides a second exhaustive winnowing of these textual references in the introductory section of his Ganjinah-i ganjavi (Tehran, 1928).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    François de Blois, Persian literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey Begun by the Late C. A. Storey, vol. V, Part 2: Poetry ca. A.D. 1100 to 1225, and vol. V, Part 3: Appendix II–IV, Addenda and Corrigenda, Indexes (London: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1994 and 1997), “Nizami,” pp. 438–95. De Blois includes an exhaustive bibliography of editions and translations of Nizami’s work in his article as well.Google Scholar
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    For Sana’i’s work in general see J. T. P. de Bruijn, Of Piety and Poetry (Leiden, 1983). Chapter 10 is devoted to the Hadiqa. The only full English (prose) translation of the Makhzan, that by G. H. D. Darab (London, 1945), is virtually unobtainable. However, E. G. Browne offers a brief excerpt in verse in vol. 2 of his Literary History of Persia (Cambridge, 1964), p. 404.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    On the character of Shirin see Julie S. Meisami, Medieval Persian Court Poetry (Princeton, 1987), especially chapter 4, “Romance: Character as Moral Emblem.”Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Nizami Ganjavi, The Haft Paykar: A Medieval Persian Romance, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Julie Scott Meisami (Oxford, New York, 1995). Peter Chelkowski gives an extended prose paraphrase of Nizami’s three romances in Mirror of the Invisible World: Tales from the Khamseh of Nizami (New York, 1975).Google Scholar
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    Wilhelm Bacher, Nizami’s Leben und Werke und der zweite Theil des Nizamishcen Alexanderbuches, mit persischen Texten als Anhang (Leipzig, 1871).Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Principal among the Western literary histories are those of Browne, A Literary History of Persia, vol. II (London, 1906; reprinted Cambridge, 1964); Rypka et al., History of Iranian Literature, revised and expanded English edition (Holland, 1968), and Yarshater et al., Persian Literature (New York). In Persian, the standard history is that of Zabihollah Safa, Tarikh-i adabiyat dar iran. The most recent edition contains five volumes in seven parts (Tehran, 1362/1988).Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Helmut Ritter, Über die Bildersprache Nizamis (Berlin, 1927).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 19.
    Ye. E. Bertel’s Nizami, Tvorcheskii put’ poeta (Moscow, 1956). See also the chapters on Nizami in his Nizami i Fuzuli from his collected works (Moscow, 1962).Google Scholar
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    Heft Peyker, ein romatisches Epos. Ed. H. Ritter und J. Rypka (Prague, 1934).Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    J. Christoph Bürgel: “Nizami” in Die Grossen der Weltgeschichte Band III (Zurich, 1973); “Nizami über Sprache und Dichtung” (xxx); “Die Frau als Person in der Epic Nizamis,” Asiatische Studien (1988) 42: 137–55; “The Romance,” Persian Literature, ed. E. Yarshater (New York, 1988), pp. 161–78; “The Contest of the Two Philosophers in Nizamis First and Last Epics,” Yad-Nama in memoria di Alessandro Bausani, ed. Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti and Lucia Rostagno (Rome, 1991), 1: 109–17; “Conquérant, philosophe et prophète. L’image d’Alexandre le Grand dans l’épopée de Nezāmi,” Pand-o Sokhan. Mélanges offerts à Charles-Henri de Fouchécour, ed. C. Balaÿ, C. Kappler, and Z. Vesel (Tehran, 1995), pp. 65–78; “Die Geheimwissenschaften im Iskandarname Nizamis,” Proceedings of the Second European Conference of Iranian Studies, ed. B. G. Fragner et al. (Rome, 1995), pp. 103–12; “The Idea of Non-Violence in the Epic Poetry of Nizami,” Edebiyat: The Journal of Middle Eastern Literatures NS. vol. 9, no. 1 (1998), pp. 61–84. Bürgel also makes extensive reference to Nizami in other of his works, most notably The Feather of Simurgh: The “Licit Magic” of the Arts in Medieval Islam (New York, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Jalal Sattari, Halat-i ’Ishq-i Majnun (Tehran, 1366/1988); Ali Akbar Sa’idi-Sirjani, Sima-yi du zan (Tehran, 1367/1989).Google Scholar
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    Mansur Sarvatiyan, ed., Majmu’ah-i maqalat-i kungirih-i bayn al-milali-i buzurgdasht-i nuhumin sadah-i tavallud-i hakim Nizami Ganjavi (Tabriz, 1372/1993). Papers from the conferences in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles appeared as a special issue of Iranshenasi, edited by Jalal Matini (vol. III, no. 4, Winter 1992, Washington, D.C.).Google Scholar
  16. 28.
    Muhammad Taqi Ja’fari, Hikmat, ’Irfan, va akhlaq dar shi’r-i Nizami Ganjavi (Tehran: Kayhan, 1991), p. 203. Barat Zanjani, Laili va Majnun-i Nizami Ganjavi (Tehran: Danishga-i Tehran, 1990), p. 5. Muhammad R. Rashid, “Ishq va Itiqad dar Makhzan al-Asrar,” in Majalih-i Danishkadih-i Adabiyat-i Firdawsi, Mashhad. no. 88–9, (Spring 1990), p. 87. Bihruz Sarvatiyan, Sharafnamah-i Ganjah’i (Tehran: Tus, 1989), p. 23.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    Bihruz Sarvatiyan, Ainih-i ghayb-i Nizami Ganja-i dar masnavi Makhzan al-asrar (Tehran: Nash-i Kalamih, 1990), p. 129.Google Scholar
  18. 31.
    See Makhzan al-asrar-i Nizami, edited by Pizhman Bakhtiyar (Tehran: Peygah, 1988).Google Scholar
  19. 32.
    On this latter point see Mina Muallim, “Guftigu ba Bihruz Sarvatian” [A Conversation with Bihruz Sarvatiyan], Dunya-i Sukhan, 41 (1991), pp. 26–31.Google Scholar
  20. 33.
    Bihruz Sarvatiyan, A’inah-i Ghayb, Nizami Ganjah-’i dar Masnavi Makhzan al-asrar (Tehran: Nashr-i Kalamih, 1989), p. 78.Google Scholar
  21. 34.
    Julie Scott Meisami, “Fitnah or Azadah? Nizami’s Ethical Poetic,” Edebiyat, N.S. vol. 1, no. 2, 1989, pp. 41–77.Google Scholar

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© Kamran Talattof and Jerome W. Clinton 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kamran Talattof
  • Jerome W. Clinton

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