Reviews

This important publication consists of the second edition of a tadhkira on Persian poets active in Afghan Badakhshan throughout history, by a short-lived but exceptionally prolific literati and compiler from Jurm, Shah ‘Abd-Allah Badakhshi b. Muhammad Sa‘id Khan (1912-48).  The Armaghan-i Badakhshan had been published a first time in the Majalla-yi Kabul during its author’s lifetime, between 1937 and 1940, and a second time in book form, in two volumes, in 1988.  The text of the present publication is that of the first edition.  It is preceded by an introduction by the Editor, with invaluable paragraphs on Shah ‘Abd-Allah’s yet poorly known biography and on his works—among which, beside a number of papers dispersed in the most varied Afghan Persian-language periodical publications, one can still find the following items, mostly unpublished: (1) an anthology on the ‘ulama and jurists of Badakhshan; (2) a repertory of this region’s calligraphers; (3) a partly published “Dictionary of the Aryan Languages of Afghanistan;” (4) a “History of Badakhshan” documented by a number of varied Persian sources, medieval and modern; (5) a historical treatise on the Hephtalites; and (6) a memoir of the (then newly created) Faculty of Law of Kabul about “Law in Islam”.  The Armaghan-i Badakhshan itself is organised on a geographical basis, with uneven successive parts on the poets active in (1) Fayzabad; (2) Jurm, Yumgan and Baharistan; (3) Darwaz; (4) Shughnan, each being introduced by paragraphs on the geography, history, economy and local dialects of the district.  The anthology deals with Persian-speaking poets active in Afghan Badakhshan from early times till the early twentieth century, with particular interest in authors living in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  As usually in his other surviving works, Shah ‘Abd-Allah has been using previous Persian tadhkiras of diverse origins, several of them lost, dealing with one way or another with Badakhshani poets, and including the tadhkiras by Awliya Husayn Maghmum (on the latter, see in supra 539 my review of the paper by Mirganoff) and those by different well-known late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century compilers from Bukhara (Wazih, Muhtaram, Ziya, ‘Ayni).  Interestingly enough, in a modernist stance Shah ‘Abd-Allah introduces the manuscripts that he has been using for establishing the texts, he states the names of these manuscripts’ owners, and mentions through whom he had access to them.  He also tries to provide an overall picture of the history of Persian language and literature in Badakhshan between the seventeenth and the early twentieth century, with reflections on the overall evolution of Persian literature in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Northern India during the same period of time.  Shah ‘Abd-Allah insists notably on the varying fortune of Bidil’s model:  According to him, while a majority of eighteenth and nineteenth-century poets were imitating this prominent figure of the sabk-i hindi, even among Bidil’s imitators there were some who managed to create works of their own, such as Sayyid Big Darwazi, Misra‘ and Rahmat.  Less apologetically and more interestingly, the Armaghan also extensively discusses Northern Iranian (‘Pamiri’) dialects spoken in Badakhshan and their relationship with Persian language, in a way very much informed by the international academic debates of the 1920s-30s on the Indo-European “race” (Persian: ‘irq, a term widely used in the Armaghan) and languages.  In order to prove the Indo-Iranian roots of Pamiri dialects, Shah ‘Abd-Allah provides a short comparative table of words in Shughni, Wakhi, Ishkashimi and ‘Tukhari’ with their equivalents in Persian, Pashto and English languages (pp. 202-5 of the present publication).  One enigma at least of the history of the Armaghan will remain unsolved after this edition: that of the existence of a third manuscript volume of the text, mentioned by a grandson of Shah ‘Abd-Allah’s and apparently purchased by the prominent Tajikistani collector Savlatsho Mergan (Sawlat-Shah Mirganoff). “What did Mergan do with the manuscript?” asks the Editor at the end of his introduction. What does Mergan do in general with manuscripts—except accumulating them—is a question every scholar involved in the history of Persian culture in Badakhshan is brought to face with in the course of documentary research.  It remains that one can only rejoice oneself with the publication of such an important source:  In spite of the Editor’s careful ignorance of the relatively numerous Tajikistani academic publications of the past decade, the book and its interesting critical apparatus provide an invaluable insight on the modern history of Persian literature in Badakhshan, south of the Jayhun, and on its modernist, nationalist historiography in Afghanistan during the roaring 1930s.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-6.2.B-551