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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

28 November 2022
Professor Christine van Ruymbeke to deliver the first 2023 Darwin College Lecture next January

On Friday, 20th January, 2023, Professor Christine van Ruymbeke, Ali Reza and Mohamed Soudavar Professor of Persian Studies, will deliver the first 2023 Darwin College Lecture. The event will take place at 5.30pm in the Lady Mitchell Hall on the University's Sidgwick Site.

On Escaping or Not Escaping Solitude: Persian Tales of Turtles and Pearls

"Narratives speak volumes. As remarked by the philosopher Hannah Arendt, they are the only possible medium to express the complexity of philosophical or other conundrums. Often, the reader’s effort to decode them, that is: the exercise itself, contains the pedagogy.

"This presentation examines two great Medieval Persian narrative works: the Book of Kalila and Dimna ( کتاب کليله و دمنه Ketab-e Kalile-o Demne) by Nasrollah Monshi and the Seven Portraits ( هفت پيکرHaft Paykar) composed by Nezami Ganjavi.

"Should we escape or not escape solitude, that feeling experienced in a state of physical or mental isolation? Aren’t friendship or love preferable, even at very high costs? My two authors-philosophers propose deadly serious situations … and leave us to work them out. Listen to what happens to the bored old King of the Monkeys up in his fig tree! Be baffled by the riddles of the Princess who sets such very high standards to her suitors!

"I will introduce you to my way of interacting with these two sophisticated narratives written for the highest social strata of the Persianate world; they address people whose expectations from literature were manifestly different from ours in this 21st century. Nevertheless, my aim is to see you leave this lecture with a huge smile on your face and a new way of looking at friendship and love, basking in a new awareness of what Persian tales do to us and how irresistible they are."