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(March 2005)


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Decide that you like college life. In your dorm you meet many nice people. Some are smarter than you. And some, you notice, are dumber than you. You will continue, unfortunately, to view the world in exactly these terms for the rest of your life.

Lorrie Moore

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🦋 Nawfal

It seems clear that the story of Layla and Majnun is understood as an allegory for the believer's unquenchable thirst for God. But I'm having trouble getting this line of meaning out of the story itself... I'm about midway through, and Majnun's friend Nawfal has led his army against Layla's tribe, seeking to capture her and lay waste--

Like lion’s claws the spears tore breasts and limbs, the arrows drank the sap of life with wide open beaks like birds of prey; and proud heroes, heads severed from trunks, lay down for the sleep of eternity.
Majnun renounces the quest a few pages later but Nawfal is about to go on the attack again, mustering up reserves... and I'm thinking, how the hell does this fit into the allegory? The gore is nice and vivid in an epic-poetry sort of way.

"Love is Fire and I am Wood" makes no mention of Nawfal, it seems strange to me to ignore such a central character.

Update turns out my confusion was based on a confusion between Nizami's epic romance and the underlying story. (See comments.)

posted morning of Sunday the 4th
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Now I am reading Paul Brians' notes on Nizami: Layla and Majnun and he makes it clear the allegory predates Nizami, who fashioned a romance of it. So the character of Nawfal and his storyline may be completely Nizami's addition.

posted morning of the 4th by The Modesto Kid

Ferial Ghazoul's "Majnun Layla: Translation as Transposition" has notes about earlier, Arabic sources; Nawal is "a deputy of the Umayyad governor, [who] tried to save Majnun, dressing him properly and promising Layla in marriage." Ghazoul says that Nizami "elaborated the battle scene between Nawfal and Layla's clan, calling on the epic conventions of his own culture. This should not be viewed as deviating from the 'original', since the original itself is neither original nor unique."

posted morning of the 4th by The Modesto Kid


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