Reviews

This third volume of the “Encyclopaedia of Tajik Literature and Art” succeeds at a distance two initial volumes published during the late Soviet period (respectively, in 1988 and 1989), i.e. before independence and the Tajikistani civil war.  As such, this conclusive volume bears testimony of striking continuity and change in the official culture of Tajikistan in a period of unprecedented social and political upheavals.  Whilst the main feature of the two first volumes have been preserved (concentration on a historical space delimited mainly by the present boundaries of Tajikistan; mediocre interest for cultural activity of any kind outside the official sphere of state-sponsored agencies and creators ‘unions’; silence on mystical and religious aspects in the work of many poets and prose writers; over-domination of biographical notices nourished by the exploitation of the rich pre-Soviet anthology literature; over-representation of ‘immediate history’ through notices on innumerable protagonists of contemporary Tajikistani arts and literature), the editors of this item have been able to considerably enlarge the scope of previous contributions (towards pre-Soviet literature in particular, through the systematic rehabilitation of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Tajik Persian poetry as it used to be practiced at the courts of the Central Asian khanates and in the nascent press and edition of the 1900s-1910s; towards also a larger cultural area, notably through the inclusion of biographical notices of pre-modern, modern and contemporary Persian-writing poets from Afghanistan).  The short biographical notices edited in the addendum (pp. 501-18) allow present-time writers, artists and scholars of Tajikistan born since the late 1940s to find their way to a well-deserved posterity.  If one may deplore the official character of the resulting encyclopaedia, the researchers can only rejoice themselves to have at their disposal such an invaluable tool for further work on the cultural history and sociology of culture in modern and contemporary Persian-speaking Central Asia.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.3.C-110