Reviews

This booklet introduces the technique of mu‘amma (enigma, riddle, world puzzle) used by the famous Timurid poet ‘Ali Shir Nawayi (1441-1501). Ninety nine bayts are presented along with the transliterated text following a translation into French and a short commentary, but without the original Arabo-Persian writing. Readers will find also preliminary remarks on the various rules of the enigma. To go beyond such preamble, it is important to remind that, as is well-known, mu‘amma (see also the lughz and the uhdjiyya) is a prosodic play present in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkic and Chaghatay Turkic (though not mentioned in the bibliographical references, see the arch-classical Geschichte der schönen Redekünste Persiens, mit einer Blüthenlese aus zweyhundert persischen Dichtern by J. von Hammer-Purgstall, Vienne, 1818; and the more recent Ali Fuat Bilkan, Türk Edebiyatında Mu’amma, Ankara, 2000). It belongs to a long tradition theoretically inaugurated by Khalil b. Ahmad (718-786), author of the Kitab al-mu‘amma which, unfortunately, did not survive, then continued until the modern period throughout classical poetry (numerous references in C. A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey, 3/2, Oxford, 1990: 233-5). For instance, in fourteenth-century Central Asia the case of ‘Ismat Allah Nasiri and of his disciples is particularly interesting. The point about ‘Ali Shir Nawayi’s logogriphs — unmentioned also in the booklet — is actually the role of his mentor ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami, who was a tremendously influent master in rhetoric (including enigma). Jami apparently authored a Risala-yi mu‘amma, and represented a literary as well as spiritual model for Nawa’i. The central question, then, is to understand how and to which extent Nawa’i’s mu‘ammas are related to those composed by Jami.

Alexandre Papas, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-5.3.B-475