Category Archives: translation

Desire | بهر آن میلست

For Sashels…

بهر آن میلست در ماده به نر
تا بود تکمیل کار همدگر
میل اندر مرد و زن حق زان نهاد
تا بقا یابد جهان زین اتحاد
میل هر جزوی به جزوی هم نهد
ز اتحاد هر دو تولیدی زهد
شب چنین با روز اندر اعتناق
مختلف در صورت اما اتفاق
روز و شب ظاهر دو ضد و دشمنند
لیک هر دو یک حقیقت می تنند
هر یکی خواهان دگر را همچو خویش
از پی تکمیل فعل و کار خویش
زانک بی شب دخل نبود طبع را
پس چه اندر خرج آرد روزها

bahr-e-an meilast dar madeh beh nar

ta bud takmil kar-e-hamdegar

meil andar-e-mard o zan haqq zan nehad

ta baqa yabad jahan zin ettehad

meil-e-har jozui beh jozui ham nehad

ze ettehad-e-har do towlidi zahad

shab chenin ba ruz andar-e-etenaq

mokhtalef dar surat amma ettefaq

ruz o shab zaher-e-do zedd o dashmanand

leik har do yek haqiqat mitanand

har yeki khahan degar ra hamchu khish

az pay takmil-e-fe’el o kar-e-khish

zank bi shab dakhl nabud tabe’ ra

pas che andar-e-kharj arad ruzha

/purpose [of]/that/desire/is/in/female/for/male/

/so [that]/was/complete/work/[of] each other/

/desire/into/man/and/woman/Truth/from it/put/

/so [that]/survive/[would] be/world/from this/union/

/desire [of]/one part/to/one part/also/placed/

/from/union/both/a product/give/

/night/the same/with/day/in/embrace/

/different/in/form/but/unison/

/day/and/night/appear/contrary/and/enemies/are/

/but/both/one/truth/… [proclaim]/

/each one/wants/[the] other/just like/self/

/for/completion [of]/action/and/work/[of] itself/

/from that/without/night/income/[would] not be/nature/[to]/

/then/what/[into]/outside/spend/days/

Woman’s desire and man’s

exist to complete each others’ work.

From the absolute, desire emanates

into each

For the world of form to be preserved.

The desire of one incompleteness for the other

likewise exists

so that from their union, newness is born.

Just like this, night embraces day.

Opposite in form, always already one.

To the senses day and night appear in contrast to each other.

But both silently attest to the same sweet truth.

Each desires the other as its own self

to complete some hidden purpose.

And as for human nature,

without night,

what income would it receive?

Without that sweet shared mystery,

its days would have nothing to expend.

Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ — Mathnawi III 4414-20

–translation by halewi

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Love is reckless | لاابالی عشق باشد

To P. Minto…

لاابالی عشق باشد نی خرد
عقل آن جوید کز آن سودی برد
ترک تاز و تن گداز و بی حیا
در بلا چون سنگ زیر آسیاب
سخت رویی که ندارد هیچ پشت
بهره جویی را درون خویس کشت
پاک می بازد، نباشد مزد جو
آنچنان که پاک می گیرد زهو
می دهد حق هستیش بی علتی
می سپارد باز بی علت فتی
که فتوت دادن بی علتست
پاک بازی خارج هر ملتست
زآنکه ملت فضل جوید یا خلاص
پاک بازانند قربانان خاص
نی خدا را امتحانی می کنند
نی در سود و زیانی می زنند

la-obali eshq ni kherad

aql an juyad kaz an sudi barad

tork taz o tan godaz o bi hayya

dar bala chon sang-e-zir-e-asiab

sakht ruyi ke nadarad hich posht

bahreh juyi ra darun-e-khish kosht

pak mibazad, nabashad mozd ju

an chenan keh pak migirad ze hu

midahad haq hastiash bi ellati

mi separad baz bi ellat fati

keh fotavat dadan-e-bi ellatast

pak bazi kharej-e-har mellatast

zankeh mellat fazl juyad ya khelas

pak bazanand ghorbanan-e-khas

ni khoda ra emtehan mikonand

ni dar-e-sud o ziani mizanand


/reckless/love/is/[but] not/intellect/

/reason/[for] that/searches/from which/profit/gains/

/[as fierce as] a Turk/red-hot/and/body-melting/and/without modesty/

/in/distress/like/nether millstone/

/stone-faced/that/has/no/back [at all]/

/gain-seeking/in/[his/her]self/has killed/

/gambles clean [away],/is not/wage-seeking/

/so long as/receives clean/from Him/

/gives/Truth/[his/her] existence/without cause/

/gives it/back again/without cause/young beggar/

/for/devotion/giving/without/cause/is/

/gambling clean [away]/beyond/any/religion/is/

/in as much as/religion/favour/seeks/or/deliverance/

/those who gamble clean [away]/are/[the] special sacrifices/

/neither/God/[do they] test/

/nor/[on the] door of/profit/and/loss/[do they] hit/

Love is reckless–not reason.

Reason searches for a profit.

Love comes on fiercely, scorching, melting all form, shameless.

But in despair, sturdy as a millstone.

Stone-faced, loyal, selfless.

Love is love because it’s killed all self-regard.

Love gambles itself away. It doesn’t look for payment.

It receives everything it needs

from beyond.

The absolute gives us life for no reason.

The lover gives it back again just the same.

For true devotion is giving–without cause.

Gambling  yourself clean away is beyond any religion.

While religion is for seeking favour and deliverance,

Those who gamble themselves clean away are

the choicest sacrifice.

They don’t put You to the test.

Nor do they knock on the door of gain and loss.

All they want is to give

Everything.

 

Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ — Mathnawi VI 1967-74

–translation by halewi

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Gifts | گر بیان معنوی کافی شدی

گر بیان معنوی کافی شدی
خلق عالم عاطل و باطل بدی
گر محبت فکرت و معنیستی
صورت روزه و نمازت نیستی
هدیه‌های دوستان با همدگر
نیست اندر دوستی الا صور
تا گواهی داده باشد هدیه‌ها
بر محبتهای مضمر در خفا

gar bayan-e-ma’anavi kafi shodi

khalq-e-‘alam ‘atel o batel budi

gar mohabbat fekrat o ma’anisti

surat ruzeh o namazat nisti

hediyeh-ha-ye-dustan ba hamdegar

nist andar-e-dusti ela savar

ta govahi dadeh bashad hediyeh-ha

bar mohabbat-ha-yeh-mozmar dar khafa

/if/spiritual discourse/enough/had been/

/creation of the [temporal] world/useless/and/vain/was/

/if/love/thought/and/[temporal] meaning/is/

/form/fasting/and/prayer/is not/

/gifts of friends/to/each other/

/is not/as to friendship/but/forms/

/so that/witnessing/being given/gifts/

/to/tacit loves/in/mystery/

If spiritual words were enough

the created world would be useless and vain.

If love was all thought and sense

fasting and prayer would not exist.

Friends’ gifts to each other,

compared to friendship,

are nothing but forms.

But their giving is what

testifies to those mysterious loves unseen.

 

Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ — Mathnawi I 2625-27

–translation by halewi

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Exclusive: Zizek on Iran

A collaborative translation of BBC Persian’s recent exclusive interview with Zizek. Cross-posted on the new site, transliminal.org:

http://www.overstream.net/swf/player/oplx?oid=awswrnnzipa3&noplay=1

Many thanks to Kam, Mani and Sheyda for their help on this one.

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Israel deliberately forgets its history – Shlomo Sand

Via Le Monde diplomatique – English edition.

Israel deliberately forgets its history

Monday 1 September 2008

An Israeli historian suggests the diaspora was the consequence, not of the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine, but of proselytising across north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East

by Schlomo Sand

Every Israeli knows that he or she is the direct and exclusive descendant of a Jewish people which has existed since it received the Torah (1) in Sinai. According to this myth, the Jews escaped from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land, where they built the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, which subsequently split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They experienced two exiles: after the destruction of the first temple, in the 6th century BC, and of the second temple, in 70 AD.

Two thousand years of wandering brought the Jews to Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Poland and deep into Russia. But, the story goes, they always managed to preserve blood links between their scattered communities. Their uniqueness was never compromised.

At the end of the 19th century conditions began to favour their return to their ancient homeland. If it had not been for the Nazi genocide, millions of Jews would have fulfilled the dream of 20 centuries and repopulated Eretz Israel, the biblical land of Israel. Palestine, a virgin land, had been waiting for its original inhabitants to return and awaken it. It belonged to the Jews, rather than to an Arab minority that had no history and had arrived there by chance. The wars in which the wandering people reconquered their land were just; the violent opposition of the local population was criminal.

This interpretation of Jewish history was developed as talented, imaginative historians built on surviving fragments of Jewish and Christian religious memory to construct a continuous genealogy for the Jewish people. Judaism’s abundant historiography encompasses many different approaches.

But none have ever questioned the basic concepts developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Discoveries that might threaten this picture of a linear past were marginalised. The national imperative rejected any contradiction of or deviation from the dominant story. University departments exclusively devoted to “the history of the Jewish people”, as distinct from those teaching what is known in Israel as general history, made a significant contribution to this selective vision. The debate on what constitutes Jewishness has obvious legal implications, but historians ignored it: as far as they are concerned, any descendant of the people forced into exile 2,000 years ago is a Jew.

Nor did these official investigators of the past join the controversy provoked by the “new historians” from the late 1980s. Most of the limited number of participants in this public debate were from other disciplines or non-academic circles: sociologists, orientalists, linguists, geographers, political scientists, literary academics and archaeologists developed new perspectives on the Jewish and Zionist past. Departments of Jewish history remained defensive and conservative, basing themselves on received ideas. While there have been few significant developments in national history over the past 60 years (a situation unlikely to change in the short term), the facts that have emerged face any honest historian with fundamental questions.

Founding myths shaken

Is the Bible a historical text? Writing during the early half of the 19th century, the first modern Jewish historians, such as Isaak Markus Jost (1793-1860) and Leopold Zunz (1794-1886), did not think so. They regarded the Old Testament as a theological work reflecting the beliefs of Jewish religious communities after the destruction of the first temple. It was not until the second half of the century that Heinrich Graetz (1817-91) and others developed a “national” vision of the Bible and transformed Abraham’s journey to Canaan, the flight from Egypt and the united kingdom of David and Solomon into an authentic national past. By constant repetition, Zionist historians have subsequently turned these Biblical “truths” into the basis of national education.

But during the 1980s an earthquake shook these founding myths. The discoveries made by the “new archaeology” discredited a great exodus in the 13th century BC. Moses could not have led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Promised Land, for the good reason that the latter was Egyptian territory at the time. And there is no trace of either a slave revolt against the pharaonic empire or of a sudden conquest of Canaan by outsiders.

Nor is there any trace or memory of the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon. Recent discoveries point to the existence, at the time, of two small kingdoms: Israel, the more powerful, and Judah, the future Judea. The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. This decisive encounter with Persian religion gave birth to Jewish monotheism.

Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea (2).

Proselytising zeal

But if there was no exile after 70 AD, where did all the Jews who have populated the Mediterranean since antiquity come from? The smokescreen of national historiography hides an astonishing reality. From the Maccabean revolt of the mid-2nd century BC to the Bar Kokhba revolt of the 2nd century AD, Judaism was the most actively proselytising religion. The Judeo-Hellenic Hasmoneans forcibly converted the Idumeans of southern Judea and the Itureans of Galilee and incorporated them into the people of Israel. Judaism spread across the Middle East and round the Mediterranean. The 1st century AD saw the emergence in modern Kurdistan of the Jewish kingdom of Adiabene, just one of many that converted.

The writings of Flavius Josephus are not the only evidence of the proselytising zeal of the Jews. Horace, Seneca, Juvenal and Tacitus were among the Roman writers who feared it. The Mishnah and the Talmud (3) authorised conversion, even if the wise men of the Talmudic tradition expressed reservations in the face of the mounting pressure from Christianity.

Although the early 4th century triumph of Christianity did not mark the end of Jewish expansion, it relegated Jewish proselytism to the margins of the Christian cultural world. During the 5th century, in modern Yemen, a vigorous Jewish kingdom emerged in Himyar, whose descendants preserved their faith through the Islamic conquest and down to the present day. Arab chronicles tell of the existence, during the 7th century, of Judaised Berber tribes; and at the end of the century the legendary Jewish queen Dihya contested the Arab advance into northwest Africa. Jewish Berbers participated in the conquest of the Iberian peninsula and helped establish the unique symbiosis between Jews and Muslims that characterised Hispano-Arabic culture.

The most significant mass conversion occurred in the 8th century, in the massive Khazar kingdom between the Black and Caspian seas. The expansion of Judaism from the Caucasus into modern Ukraine created a multiplicity of communities, many of which retreated from the 13th century Mongol invasions into eastern Europe. There, with Jews from the Slavic lands to the south and from what is now modern Germany, they formed the basis of Yiddish culture (4).

Prism of Zionism

Until about 1960 the complex origins of the Jewish people were more or less reluctantly acknowledged by Zionist historiography. But thereafter they were marginalised and finally erased from Israeli public memory. The Israeli forces who seized Jerusalem in 1967 believed themselves to be the direct descendents of the mythic kingdom of David rather than – God forbid – of Berber warriors or Khazar horsemen. The Jews claimed to constitute a specific ethnic group that had returned to Jerusalem, its capital, from 2,000 years of exile and wandering.

This monolithic, linear edifice is supposed to be supported by biology as well as history. Since the 1970s supposedly scientific research, carried out in Israel, has desperately striven to demonstrate that Jews throughout the world are closely genetically related.

Research into the origins of populations now constitutes a legitimate and popular field in molecular biology and the male Y chromosome has been accorded honoured status in the frenzied search for the unique origin of the “chosen people”. The problem is that this historical fantasy has come to underpin the politics of identity of the state 
of Israel. By validating an essentialist, 
ethnocentric definition of Judaism it encourages a segregation that separates Jews from non-Jews – whether Arabs, Russian immigrants or foreign workers.

Sixty years after its foundation, Israel refuses to accept that it should exist for the sake of its citizens. For almost a quarter of the population, who are not regarded as Jews, this is not their state legally. At the same time, Israel presents itself as the homeland of Jews throughout the world, even if these are no longer persecuted refugees, but the full and equal citizens of other countries.

A global ethnocracy invokes the myth of the eternal nation, reconstituted on the land of its ancestors, to justify internal discrimination against its own citizens. It will remain difficult to imagine a new Jewish history while the prism of Zionism continues to fragment everything into an ethnocentric spectrum. But Jews worldwide have always tended to form religious communities, usually by conversion; they cannot be said to share an ethnicity derived from a unique origin and displaced over 20 centuries of wandering.

The development of historiography and the evolution of modernity were consequences of the invention of the nation state, which preoccupied millions during the 19th and 20th centuries. The new millennium has seen these dreams begin to shatter.

And more and more academics are analysing, dissecting and deconstructing the great national stories, especially the myths of common origin so dear to chroniclers of the past.

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The new Zionist myth?

Following up from a previous post, one of many interviews with a solider who participated in Operation Cast Lead:

What does it mean when the state itself sanctions this kind of cosmic-scale, theological rationale for destruction? Is this the 21st century? If so, maybe it’s time for some new mythologies, some new modes of making sense of the world.

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Sitting here, you and I | خنك آن دم كه نشستيم

A first attempt at translating the work of Mowlana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi ‘Rumi’ (in memory of my late grandfather, who would not have understood, but who i loved, and who loved me, nonetheless):

خنك آن دم كه نشستيم در ايوان من و تو
به دو نقش و به دو صورت به يكى جان من و تو
رنگ باغ و دم مرغان بدهد آب حيات
آن زمانى كه در آييم به بستان من و تو
اختران فلک آیند به نظاره ما
مه خودرا بنماييم به ايشان من ه تو
من و تو بى من و تو جمع شويم از سر ذوق
خوش و فارغ ز خرافات پريشان من و تو
طوطيان فلكى جمله جگرخوار شوند
در مقامى كه بخنديم بر آن سان من و تو
اين عجبتر كه من و تو به يكى كنج اين جا
هم در اين دم به عراقيم و خراسان من و تو

khonak an dam keh neshastim dar eyvan, man o to

beh do naqsh, o beh do surat, beh yeki jan, man o to

rang-e-bagh o dam-e-morghan bedahad ab-e-hayyat

an zamani keh dar ayyim bebostan man o to

akhteran-e-falak ayand beh nazzareh-ye ma

mah-e-khod ra benemayyim beh ishan man o to

man o to, bi man o to, jam’ shavim az sar-e-zowq

khosh o faregh ze khorafat-e-parishan man o to

tutiyan-e-falaki jomleh jegarkhor shavand

dar maqami keh bekhandim bar an san man o to

in ‘ajabtar keh man o to beh yeki konj inja

ham dar in dam beh ‘eraqim o khorasan man o to

/cool/that/moment/when/we sit/on/the veranda/you and I/

/in two images/in two forms/in one soul/you and I/

/colours of the garden/and the breath of birds/give/the water of life/

/that time/that/we enter/the garden/you and I/

/the stars of heaven/arrive/to gaze upon/us/

/the moon/itself/we show/to them/you and I/

/you and I/without/you and I/join together/in delight/

/happy/and free/from/scattered extravagant stories/you and I/

/parrots of heaven/all together/liver-eaten/become/

/in a place/where/we laugh/in that manner/you and I/

/this/most strange/that/you and I/in/one/corner/here/

/at once/in/this moment/in/Iraq/we are/and Khorasan/you and I/

Sitting here, you and I, the courtyard breeze is cool

Two images, two forms, one thought, you and I

The orchard-shades, the songs of birds give up the world’s secrets

When we find ourselves here in this garden

The stars of distant galaxies come to gaze on us

You and I, together, we show them the moon

You and I, without ‘you’ and ‘I’, we are absolute joy

Happy, free from empty words, such are you and I

All those birds of paradise, full of childish envy

While in that same place, you and I, we cannot help but laugh

What’s truly strange is  you and I, here together, now

At once here in the west and at once here in the east

such we always were

You

and I

-translation by halewi

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