Reviews

Beyond its both general and restrictive title, this short article deals with the essentially post-Mongol Judeo-Persian-language literature of the Jews of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.  Insisting on the grammatical specificity of Judeo-Persian language, the author quickly evokes the different literary genres and categories represented in this purely written idiom: tafsir (a term designating the Persian translations of the Sacred Books, as well as the comments and additions to these scriptures), books on Halakha and on the Talmud, dictionaries (for the teaching of Hebrew and Aramaic languages, notably in religious schools), works of medicine and pharmacology (based for the most part on Ibn Sina’s Qanun), treatises on sciences (with a special interest in astronomy and in the composition of calendars), on philosophy and theology (such as the Hovot Yehuda [Judas’ Duties] written by Yehuda b. Eleazar in Kashan in 1686), chronicles, collections of tales, etc.  Among other peculiarities of Judeo-Persian religious literature, the author stresses the influence of the Kabbala, expressed in poetry and liturgical poems, as well as numerous borrowings from Islamic gnostic literature.  The chapter on poetry focuses on some prominent figures, from Mawlana Shahin (first half of the fourteenth century) and ‘Imrani (1454-1536), the authors of lyrical epics inspired by both the Torah and Firdawsi’s Shah-nama, to Elisha b. Samuel, alias Raghib of Samarqand (seventeenth century), the author of a “Prince and the Sufi” inspired by an Indian tale on the life of Buddha.  Short paragraphs on chroniclers evoke the depiction by Babay b. Lutf of Kashan of the sufferings of the Jews of Iran in the period from 1610 to 1660, as well as their social and economic institutions.  NB – Among other approximations probably due to the translation of the text from Hebrew language, the French adjective “perse”, traditionally reserved for pre-Islamic Persian and Persians, is inappropriate for the designation of post-Sassanian Persian language, and for Judeo-Persian language as well.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-6.2.B-543