By two duettists of Tajikistani literary erudition (see Central Eurasian Reader 1 , No. 490 & 539 pp. 411 & 444-5), this book consists of the Cyrillic edition of an anthology of Persian poets from the mountainous region of Darwaz, by Ghulam-Muhammad, alias Hijrat Darwazi (1916-41), a literati from the city of Qal‘a-yi Khumb (present-day Tajikistan) who emigrated to northern Afghanistan in 1349 q. (i.e., between May 1930 and May 1931) under pressure of the hardships imposed upon his family by the Soviet power, and was to meet an early death in Baghlan, aged 25. The present Cyrillic transcription of his work has been established out of a unique autographic manuscript purchased during a journey to Kabul in 1969 from a certain Muhammad-Tahir Badakhshi, by S. Mergan, a literary scholar originating from Tajikistani Darwaz, now a Professor of Pashto language in the State University of Dushanbe. The manuscript has been preserved till now in Mergan’s collection, probably one of the richest Central Asian private manuscript libraries as far as Persian literature from Darwaz and Badakhshan is concerned.
According to the canons of classical Persian repertory (tadhkira) literature, the text of the album, written in 1360-1/1941-2, is made of the biographies of some forty late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century poets from Darwaz and from the neighbouring Tajikistani valleys of Wanj and Wakhiya, as well as from Afghan Badakhshan, with samples of their verses. Most unfortunately, in accordance with the prudish habits inherited from the Soviet period, the Editors have been acting as censors too: The numerous passages where Darwazi satire is expressed in cruder terms by the poets, or by the compiler himself, have been replaced by triple dots. It is also to be regretted that the book’s critical apparatus has got the smallest share, the Editors, beside censorship, reducing their role as that of mere transcribers from the Arabic to Cyrillic script — an occupation that, since independence, has tended to become a full-time profession, often profitable, for Tajikistani philologists, and has come to act as a real brake on a hypothetical return to the Arabic alphabet.
Poorly published, deprived even of a table of content, the book does not display information neither on Hijrat himself, nor on the forty poets, known or unknown, of his anthology. The work, however, should have deserved more attention since, despite the lack of precision of Hijrat’s short biographical notes they constitute a significant source on the learned culture of Darwaz and neighbouring valleys in the political framework of the Protectorate of Bukhara and of the first decade of the Soviet period. The owner of a rich personal library of manuscripts, Hijrat conveys elliptic data on each poet of his selection, praising in most cases the quality of his educational background as a scholar of Islam and prominent Sufi, his talent as a calligrapher (many good specialists of nasta‘liq and thulth), and the excellence of his social conduct. Part of this information comes from Hijrat’s own personal observations in the émigré literary circles of Afghan Darwaz. Comparison by the Editors with other modern collections, notably with the more substantial though still approximate anthology by Amirbek Habibov (Ganji Badakhshon [Treasure of Badakhshan], Dushanbe: Irfon, 1972) could have provided material for useful footnotes, especially in the case of well-known poets like Maghmum Darwazi and ‘Izzat Darwazi (studied by Mergan in his monographic article reviewed in Central Eurasian Reader 1). Last, if one can only be rejoiced by the publication of such a document from a poorly accessible private collection, it remains to be deplored, given the small amount of the book’s potential readers in Cyrillic script, that this edition of a unique, autographic manuscript has not taken the form of a more reliable facsimile.