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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

23 September 2022
The 34th Deutscher Orientalistentag (DOT 2022) was held at the Freie Universität, Berlin from 12th-17th September and Prof. Christine van Ruymbeke was invited to present the Persian Studies keynote lecture on the second day. The title of her talk was "Nazami's magnificent Haft Paykar: the complexities of a medieval narrative".

The full DOT programme is found at this link: DOT-Preliminary-Programme.pdf - Prof. Ruymbeke's talk is on page 44. The abstract reads:

Haft Paykar, the Seven Portraits, must have delighted its patron ‘Alā’ al-Din Körp Arslān, the ruler of Maragha. What is probably Nezami Ganjavi’s last narrative poem, was composed at the very end of the 12thcentury CE by a mature poet who had reached the summit of his poetical art and intellectual sophistication. It is probably Nezami’s last masnavi and none of the poet’s other four narrative works shows a similar combination of fantasy, wealth of literary and scientific references, alternating between romantic mystery and teasing fun. Haft Paykar resonates within us and once read is rarely forgotten. Parts of it are much loved, it has inspired later authors, East and West, but it is probably not Nezami’s most popular masnavi: it is indeed very different from anything anyone else has ever written and we have not yet managed to fully make sense of it.  

Haft Paykar has hitherto been translated and edited several times, parts of it have been comprehensively studied, but the work was still patiently waiting for a detailed literary analysis.  My presentation will delve into several moments of the narrative, showcasing examples of where my analysis is taking me. This is work in progress: I will be sharing parts of my forthcoming monograph on the masnavi and will also mention examples where Nezami’s challenges might yet defeat me!