Jan 16, 2017

50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus

I usually don't watch TV or movie, if I do, I would prefer to watch documentary films. Recently, I watched 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus, by Steven Pressman, which is the story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, a Jewish couple who, in 1939, decide to travel to Vienna to save the lives of 50 children. The couple are Jewish, but the mission that they take is not out of religious passion, it is rather a benign version of self-sacrifice and humane action, something that we now rarely hear or know.

Their journey to the Austria, which is under the control of Nazi is not easy. They encounter numerous government bureaucracy and discouragement from people who afraid to have Jewish in their communities, event Jews - who afraid of increasing anti-semitism - tried to persuade the couple to give up on their plan.

The couple eventually travel to Berlin and then to Vienna. There, the Kraus met with hundreds of families who are willing to send off their little ones to thousands of miles away in hopes that if they would die, their children will be alive. This is a heart-wrenching story, specially when some of those children who are now in their 70s or 80s narrate their own stories about abandoning their parents. This is the story that is relevant to our time and it also teaches us what we can do to make this world more beautiful and more tolerable for each other.

Jan 13, 2017

From the Stans: Yulduz Usmonova and Loiq Sher-Ali

Earlier in one of my blog post, I translated a poem of Loiq Sher-Ali, one of Tajikistan's famous poets. Today, I was reminded by a Tajiki friend that the exact poem that I translated here is adapted into a song by a famous female Uzbek pop singer Yulduz Usmonova. I have been listening to this song for the past five days. Usmonova's voice has masterly echoed the sentiment that is lurking among the lines. The striking part of this song is the mesmerizing choreography of dance around the vault by the lake.

I don't think the vault is natural, but the just the embodiment of imageries, allegories and overall the concept of the poem into sentimental corporeality is extraordinary beautiful. A famous female Iranian singer Googoosh has copied the exact song with little alteration though in the lyric (it seems to me that the lyric is appropriated for this song, which is artistically does not sound very ethical), the music is quite the same but the dance choreography is dully in tawdry fashion - yet still beautiful with Googoosh's voice. Googoosh's version is titled "Nemidouni" (You don't know). Usmonova's song is called "Namekuni" (You can't). Here is the song. The lyric that I translated from Tajiki into English and Persian is copied below.


If you can’t make me laugh, don’t make me cry
If you can’t help me, don’t hurt me

If you can’t make me happy, don’t remind me of joy
If you can’t make me joyful, don’t make me tearful

From the four corners of life to the pathway of life
If you can’t be a protector, don’t be an invader

If you haven’t been befuddled, don’t try it
With vaunt and flaunt, don’t try to fool me

Your body is free of any pain of being in love
Your hands are empty, don’t make mine empty

You haven’t seen the world, don’t promise me the world
You haven’t seen the sea, don’t make me thirsty for the storm


In Tajiki
Хандон агар намекунӣ, гирён макун маро,
Обод агар намекунӣ, вайрон макун маро.

Хушбахт агар намекунӣ, аз бахт дам мазан,
Шодон агар намекунӣ, нолон макун маро.

Дар чорсӯи зиндагӣ то кӯи зиндагӣ,
Раҳбон агар намешавӣ, сарсон макун маро.

Ҳайрони дил набудаӣ як лаҳза худ ба худ,
Бо лофу бо газофҳо ҳайрон макун маро.

Ҷонат тиҳист аз ғами ҷонсӯзи ошиқӣ,
Дасти тиҳӣ ту ин ҳама дастон макун маро.

Дунё надида, ваъдаи дунё мадеҳ ба ман,
Дарё надида, ташнаи тӯфон макун маро.

Лоиқ Шералӣ
[1986]

Jan 3, 2017

Lolita and Morality

The immorality of Humbert Humbert and his actions towards Lolita tell us how far one can get from his or her righteous conscience, the very inner quality of guiding to the rightness. It raises questions related to our understanding of ourself in our modern time, like to what extend has the human conscience lost its moral judgement. This is a chronic affliction that a reader might experience in reading Lolita and this is exactly what Humbert Humbert suffers from.

Lolita is a testimony to our pain and suffering in our modern day that is defeated by an indiscernible joy. We do not understand what Nabokov really says unless we put aside our preconceptions about the moral issues that the book raise.

I thought it is relevant to bring in Schopenhauer's input. In his essay on pessimism, Schopenhauer says in order understand this world’s suffering and misery is to accustom ourself with the fact that this world is a penitentiary, a sort of penal colony. If we do accustom ourself with such reality, we can locate ourself in front of a campus that would guide us through life and perhaps banish our doubts as to the right path to looking at it. If such authentic view is created, and if such desire has kindled a light in the darkness of our conscience, one can claim to understand what Nabokov means in Lolita.

Dec 31, 2016

Lolita: The Shocking Enchantment

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." From the book.

By Vladimir NabokovFor years, I have desperately been hunting the opportunity to read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and finally, the moment arrived. For the past few days, I spent my time sitting in the coffee shops reading this captivating book. It is disgustingly beautiful, and delightfully troubling. A reader must mentally be prepared to unseen, unheard, invisible, and unthinkable stories and events in Lolita.

It is definitely unsettling for people in this day and age to see a man, probably in his 40s, having sexual affair with a 13 year old young girl. As Humbert Humbert, in the beginning, explains that this is the age that marriage and cohabitation before the age of puberty is uncommon, but by doing so, he also tries to familiarize the reader with his perversion. As such he makes effort to mask his predilection towards Dolores as something natural, which has historically been a common fact, he says. He provides examples of those notable figures in history who have married (would be better to say copulated) girls as younger as 8 years old. For instance, he says, old men of Lepcha of the Himalayas copulate with girls of eight, Dante fell in love with Beatrice when she was nine. Since Humbert Humbert's purpose of giving such examples is to justify his own sexual conduct toward Dolores Haze, he could also add Muhammad and Aisha in his list. This is a fact, though it angers Muslims to this day when it is brought up, even though the Humbert's psychopathic mentality is rampant among certian cultures in different Muslim countries. I wonder why he didn't mention Muhammad and his child bride, since he brings in Rahab of Jericho from the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible, who was considered to be a harlot at ten years of age, and she helped the Israelites in capturing the city.

Lolita was first published in France. American publishers refused to publish it and editors reacted with aspersion and admonition. Some Americans found the book an insult to all Americans while some others took it personally, in some cases, they became suspicious of the author himself over the whole story. Most of them indicated that they did not finish the book, some read the first few pages and disgustingly put it away, and some hardly read it through.

Nabokov has wonderfully mastered the use of language. The reader will be surprised how eloquent and how elegant the prose has turn out despite English being not his first language. The author often finds himself confined in using words in English that do not translate the heart of the matter, therefore, the reader will encounter with compounds that are abundant.

I will try to reflect on this captivating book of the story of protagonist Humbert and his enchanting nymphet further in the next posts.

Dec 22, 2016

Loiq Sher-Ali: A Notable Poet of Tajikistan

Loiq Sher-Ali (1941-2000) was born in a small village called Mazar-e Sharif (it shouldn't be confused with the city of Mazar-e Sharif which is one of the four largest city in Afghanistan) of the Panjakent district in the Sughd Region of Tajikistan. Shir-Ali was a notable figure in the Persian literary milieu of the twentieth century. He was strongly influenced by his countryman Abdollah Jafar ibn Mohammad Rudaki. Stylistically he was under the influence of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Book of Kings) and Omar Khayyam’s poetry. Themes in his poetry are diverse. Commonly he is believed to be a cheerful poet, one can scarcely finds sadness and sorrow in his poetry.
His complete works have been fully published in 2001 in both cyrillic and Farsi script. Here is a sample of his poetry that I translated from Tajiki into English:


If you can’t make me laugh, don’t make me cry
If you can’t help me, don’t hurt me

If you can’t make me happy, don’t remind me of joy
If you can’t make me joyful, don’t make me tearful

From the four corners of life to the pathway of life
If you can’t be a protector, don’t be an invader

If you haven’t been befuddled, don’t try it
With vaunt and flaunt, don’t try to fool me

Your body is free of any pain of being in love
Your hands are empty, don’t make mine empty

You haven’t seen the world, don’t promise me the world
You haven’t seen the sea, don’t make me thirsty for the storm


In Tajiki 
Хандон агар намекунӣ, гирён макун маро,
Обод агар намекунӣ, вайрон макун маро.

Хушбахт агар намекунӣ, аз бахт дам мазан,
Шодон агар намекунӣ, нолон макун маро.

Дар чорсӯи зиндагӣ то кӯи зиндагӣ,
Раҳбон агар намешавӣ, сарсон макун маро.

Ҳайрони дил набудаӣ як лаҳза худ ба худ,
Бо лофу бо газофҳо ҳайрон макун маро.

Ҷонат тиҳист аз ғами ҷонсӯзи ошиқӣ,
Дасти тиҳӣ ту ин ҳама дастон макун маро.

Дунё надида, ваъдаи дунё мадеҳ ба ман,
Дарё надида, ташнаи тӯфон макун маро.

Лоиқ Шералӣ
[1986]


In Farsi
خندان اگر نمی کنی، گریان مکن مرا
آباد اگر نمی کنی، ویران مکن مرا
خوشبخت اگر نمی کنی، از بخت دم مزن
شادان اگر نمی کنی، نالان مکن مرا
در چارسوی زندگی تا کوی زندگی
رهبان اگر نمی شوی,سرسان مکن مرا
حیران دل نبوده‌ای یک لحظه خود به خود
با لاف و با گزافها حیران مکن مرا
جانت تهیست از غم جانسوز عاشقی
دست تهی تو این همه دستان مکن مرا
دنیا ندیده وعدهٔ دنیا مده به من
دریا ندیده تشنهٔ طوفان مکن مرا

(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, December 22, 2016)

For further reading about Loiq Sher-Ali and his poetry, please visit this link

Sep 2, 2016

Christian Morgenstern: 'Das Wasser' from Gallows Songs - Farsi Translation

I just read this short poem Das Wasser 'The Water' by Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) in my textbook. The water that he talks about here has multiple meaning, and it could be, metaphorically, taken as 'silence' or, 'quietness.' It could also symbolically mean the fluidity of life, quietly, and yet persistently strong and smooth. My amateur impression is that Morgenstern who lived until the outset of the First World War, was to some degree under the impression of romanticism period - sometimes with a tinge of melancholy while drenched in humors  - which is not very apparent in the following short poem. I really like this poem and I tried to reach the marrow of its symbolic, metaphorical, and metaphysical streaks in order to exhume a meaningful translation into Farsi. I hope I am succeeded, and if there is any suggestions, please don't hesitate to leave your comments on the comment section. You can also appear anonymous by placing a check mark on "I'd rather post as a guest."

Das Wasser - from gallows songs 
-------

Ohne Wort, ohne Wort
rinnt das Wasser immerfort;
andernfalls, andernfalls
sprach' es doch nichts andres als:

Bier und Brot, Lieb und Treu,-
und das wäre auch nicht neu.
Dieses zeigt, dieses zeigt,
dass das Wasser besser schweigt.


آب - از ترانه های چوبه دار
------
بدون زمزمه ای
بدون کلمه ای
،آب
 آرام و بی صدا
،جاری است
ورنه
بیان کردن آرامشش
طور دیگری شگفت انگیز نمی بود

تخمیر و تبخیر
عشق و راستی
اینها تازه نیست
که کسی سروده باشد
یا گفته باشد
  این همه بیانگر این است که
سکوت
 دل جریان آب را تسخیر کرده است
Poet: Christian Morgenstern- Source
(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, September 02, 2016)