(Photo: Masoud)



Literature

Manavaz Alexandrian

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Iranian Translator & Poet
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2004
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Manavaz Alexandrian
Born in 1939, Isfahan
BA in English Language
Published Works

-Ask Me Not Why I'm Silent/Persian-English translation of free verse from Banafsheh Hejazi/170 pages/published in 1997 by Gil Pub/Tehran
-Wave of Desire/Bilingual Persian-English translation of odes from Vida Farhoudi/140 pages/published in 1999, by Vazhe Ara Pub/Tehran
-Rain of Recollection/ Persian-English translation of free verses from Farhad Abedini/142 pages/published in 2000 by Darinoush Pub/Tehran
-The Sound of the New Lyre/Bilingual translation of selected poems from contemporary Iranian poets. The book covers translation of from 42 pioneer contemporary poets, 478 pages. Published in winter 2002 by Ketabsarye Tandis Pub/Tehran
-Conference of the Birds/Bilingual verse translation of Fariduddin Attar's
-Translation in verses selected odes from Rumi, Hafiz, selected quatrains from Khayam and Baba Tahir, and other poets…

Unpublished Works

Memoirs of Life/Versification of my life in couplets, sextets and octaves covering my childhood, education, employment, revolution and the war
Hajji Baba Reborn/Versification of the “Adventures of Hajji Baba of Isfahan”, originally written by James Morier, in couplets, sextets and octaves. The book describes various customs and rites of Iranian people with interested episodes during Qajar era. It is decorated by excellent paintings by Cyrus Bald ridge (about 500 pages).

Selected Pieces from “HAJJI BABA OF ISFAHAN”
Prologue
The hero of my book is son of s barber
Who by chance or fate is led to a strange harbor?
From humble engagements with blade and towe1
His adventures formed the first Persian nove1:

Hajji Baba shined once upon a time
And here I revive it into rhyme.
Coarse is the fellow and untrained in writing,
But sincere in what he is reciting.
He does not blush to talk of his falling
Or describe deeds that are moral ailing;
Nor am I an expert to sing in tune
Or warble like the nightingale in June.
Well, I have began and am resolved to end it
And shall publish if I’m allowed to send it
To the public…
***

Fathali Shah’s poet laureate speaks about the Iranian taste for poetry
From my early days I was extremely keen 
To explore the golden realm of literature,
And knew Hafiz’ poems by heart at sixteen.
Yes friend, the Persians are blended to nature
And their imagination is as fertile as
The garden that blossoms in front of their houses.
Hafiz is master of lyrics. Ferdowsi was
Unrivaled in epic. Mowlavi rouses
The most tender feelings, and Saadi’s prose
Is as smooth as his verse when he warbles
In his Gulistan and Bustan. Many are those
Who sung and their poems have survived the marbles 
Of Persepolis…
***

Hajji Baba is bastinadoed in Mashhad for selling bad tobacco
Wretch of Isfahani, so you are the one
Who is poisoning people in the town?
You will receive as many strokes of beating
As you have received Shahis for cheating.
Bring the falak, he ordered his henchmen,
And beat this rouge and son of a demon.
My feet were fastened in the dreaded noose
And I begin to receive the heavy blows.
The blows fell merciless on my bare feet,
The killing pain threw me into a fit:
Soon I saw thousands of Mohtasabs dance;
With a thousands old women, in my trance;
Laughing at my wailing and contortions….
***

The Hakim Bashi describes the Europeans
Their customs and clothing are strange and odd,
Their manner wholly differs with our blessed code;
I shall mention a few examples, then
You might from an opinion of these men.
Instead of shaving the head they shave the face,
Their face is as smooth as a glass surface;
They let the hair grow on their head, long and thick,
And two long locks descend down on the cheek.
They eat their food by spoon and by fork,
While we eat by fingers and ease the work.
They wear tight jackets, trousers and shoes
Whereas we wear turbans and our garments are loose.
They eat pork and drink wine and their women
Wear no veils and herd freely among men.
Mixed they eat and drink and lead a sinful life
And one’s wife is in fact everybody’s wife.”
***

The poet laureate flatters the king and scorn the doctor
“The firmament possesses but one sun
And Persia has one king to wear the crown.
Like sun he gives life to the universe
And all elements obey his celestial force.
“The doctor may boast of his medicine,
But how compete the King’s curing glance, keen!
“What is Padzahr, what’s Mumiai’s flash
To the twinkle of the royal eyelash?
“O Mirza Ahmaq, happiest of men
And most blessed doctor in the domain!

“Now indeed you possess within your wall
A cure for every disease, each and all.
“Shut up your Hippocrates and your Galen,
The father of all is here in person!
“The King’s glance being the lest cure, say
What avails your potions within his sway?
“Lucky is the doctor in whose blessed home
The King steps in with a royal diadem.
“O Mirza Ahmaq, happiest of men
And most blessed of doctors in the domain!”

“Afarin! Afarin , “the King said then
“You are a real poet, worthy of my reign;
Whose dog was Ferdowsi compared to you
Or Mahmoud the Ghaznavid and his crew?
A mouth from which such sweet words does proceed
Should be filled with sugar candy indeed.
Go! (he orders his chamberlain), go to the man,
Kiss his mouth and fill as much as you can
Sugar in his mouth to mark our honour!”
After this they served the Monarch’s dinner... 

Hajji Baba travels to Isfahan and Shiraz to collect presents for the King of England
When I entered Isfahan mounted on the horse
Of splendor and with authority and force
Vested by the King and all the bearing
Of a lord who has been in a king's hearing,
I was so swelled with pride that was about to burst
And I looked at my fellow citizens as dust
Under my feet. I avoided my neighborhood -
Carried away too far in my elated mood -
Lest by ill I was discovered by someone
That I was none else but the beggarly son
Of Karbalai Hasan, the dead barber.
Thus I set my sails at a safe harbor
And took my lodging beside the castle
Of the governor with all the bustle
Of a man of rank. "Look, Hajji Baba," I said,
"See how fortune's dexterous hand has shaped your fate
That you shine with dignity and enter
Your native town, representing the Center
Of Universe, wearing a dress of honor
And walking among peers in stately manner;
And armed by sword of strength and a royal farman*
To impose your power on both rich and poor men!"
And making a mental address to them
I added: "You who treated me with shame
And robbed me of my inheritance, look and fear!
For the man who can retrieve it is now near;
And you who put your heads under my razor
Tremble!, for I'm the agent of the grand vezir
And the power to cut your heads is mine -
It is enough for me to make a nod or sign
To my servants and they will cut them off.
And you beggars who used to rail and scoff
At my humble origin and conspired at my back
At Istanbul, prepare yourselves for attack
From one who is well fortified by power."

With such an air of importance at that hour 
Those who met me balked at my show of force
And opened a hasty passage for my horse
To stalk in the narrow, dusty streets fast.

Epilogue
Well or ill, dear reader, I’ve ended my theme
And sincerely solicit your kind esteem:
I know not the value of this laborious task,
Nobody has encouraged me and none did ask!
But once I started I resolved to end it.
Well, I have performed the task and send it
Out and seek the mercy of the kind censor:
O I am a novice, not a necromancer
To bewitch readers! I’ve newly taken wing,
You may accept or not, there is no helping.
To a wholesome foundation I’ve turned my verse
And shortened the episodes and made it terse.
Being Iranian I shared his feelings
And felt what he has endured in all his dealings…
 
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