Reviews

This detailed survey of modern Tajik poetry examines the various trends developed in the local literature over the past century.  Somewhat wishing to make it up for the apparent lack of interest in contemporary Tajik literature abroad, the author is fully aware of filling a gap.  After sketching a clear historical background for the birth of an autonomous Tajik literature, Gabrielle Van Den Berg outlines its major generic and formal features through extant quotations from the best-known authors, both in the original (in transcription) and in translation.  Examples are taken from such contemporary poets as Bozor Sobir, Iskandar Khatloni, Loiq Sherali and Farzona.  Their variegated metric and stylistic choices, ranging from the traditional ghazal or quatrain patterns to folk poetry and more innovative forms, circumscribe the double issue at stake for Tajik poets today: that of free verse versus prosodic constraints, and that of the relationship to their Iranian counterparts.  Indeed, the author point out to the existence of a specific Tajik conception of poetic modernity, which differs to a large extent from the Iranian representations of shi‘r-i naw.  Early on, such prominent figures as Sadr al-Din ‘Ayni strived to set up a national literature, and the Soviet era gave it its first innovative representatives, like Payraw Sulaymani.  The Tajik rejection of traditional ‘aruz prosody followed closely in the wake of such Russian Soviet poets as Maiakovskii or the revolutionary Iranian poet Lahuti.  It didn’t take Nima Yushij for a model.  The divergence is so profound that Bozor Sobir can claim that shi‘r-i naw appears to Tajik poets merely as “traditional poetry.”  Nonetheless, though shi‘r-i safid or “blank verse” be widely spread by now, traditional forms remain the most popular medium of expression among Tajik poets.  Less politically committed today that it was bound to be during the Soviet era, Tajik poetry overtly indulges in lyricism and edification.

Far from being a pale echo of “Persian literature outside Iran,” Tajik poetry has grown out of its Persian roots into a quite distinct body of literature.  As the literary critique Askar Hakim suggests, there yet remains one goal to be achieved: the recognition of Tajik poetry on an equal footing with Iranian achievements.  G. van den Berg’s article is no doubt a noteworthy contribution to this claim.

Justine Landau, New Sorbonne University, Paris
CER: I-6.2.B-526