Reviews

Quite surprisingly in a volume principally devoted to Central Asia, this paper deals with modern and contemporary Persian literature in Iran—a further illustration of the woolly geographical framework that has resulted from the explicitly chaotic edition of the present sixth volume of the UNESCO’s History and Civilizations of Central Asia (see our review of the whole book in supra 349).  Another paper by the same author, on Persian literature in Afghanistan (“Literature in Dari,” 876-82) focuses on reformist and modernist trends of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in prose and poetry, before sketching a quick panorama of the destiny of literature in Dari Persian language from Da‘ud to the Taliban.  Whilst influences from abroad have been well retraced (those from Iran in particular), the author shows unfortunately less talkative on relations between Persian and other major literary languages in Afghanistan—with Pashto in particular.  A third, very short and superficial article (Alimardonov A., “Literature in Tajik,” 883-6) deals with Persian literature in Transoxiana, mainly in present-day Tajikistan, from the Russian conquest (identified as the ‘founding drama’ of modern Tajik literature) to the end of the Soviet period.  This both inconsistent and Soviet-style narrative stresses the continuity between ‘Jadidism’ in the late Tsarist period and the first developments of Soviet Tajik literature, through the highly symbolic figure of ‘Ayni (1878-1954).  The author then lazily summarises, through enumerations of proper names, the “quantitative and qualitative development” (p. 885) of Tajikistani literature until the 1980s.  The last of this set of contributions (Hasnain I., “Literature in Other Indo-Iranian Languages,” 887-912) astonishingly treats Indo-Iranian languages foreign to Central Asia (in the common meaning of this denomination): Kashmiri, Punjabi, and Sindhi—a further illustration of the Editors’ blurred perception of the limits of Central Asia.  A result of these approximations is the absence of the northern Iranian languages of the Pamir from this volume—and of the Pamir in general, since the religions and spiritualities of this region are also conspicuous by their absence in the book, if not in the whole UNESCO series.  Another result of this overall approach is the fallacious introduction of Persian literatures of Iran, Afghanistan and Transoxiana as mutually alien and isolated from other major literatures of the region (Pashto literature in Afghanistan, Turkic literatures in Central Asia: on the latter, see my review of the more substantial article by Rémy Dor infra in 564).  More important and very characteristic of this (and of many other) publication(s) sponsored by the UNESCO:  Only “canonical” literature, i.e. literature created by writers self-identified as such, printed and distributed through formal networks has been taken into consideration in the present studies, at the expense of entire fields of literary creation traditionally (and currently) essential in Central Asia—like oral tradition as a whole, religious and mystical poetry, history telling, etc.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-6.2.B-536