Nizami: Layla and Majnun (Study Guide)

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Study Guide for Nizami: Layla and Majnun (1188) Source: The Story of Layla and Majnun, by Nizami. Trans. R. Gelpke. OmegaPublications, 256 Darrow Road, New Lebanon, NY 12125. Phone: 800-443-7107 or518 794-8181. ISBN #0-930872-52-5. Begin by reading the first two pages of the Postscript which begins on p. 200, where it is made clear that there are many retellings of this tragic love story. Nizami`s is perhaps the most famous (even immortalized in two songs by Eric Clapton: Layla and I Am Yours). One theory of how it evolved is that there were a number of poems in Arabic in which a poet named Qays complained of frustrated love for his Layla. By gleaning various details from these poems, a legend was gradually built up which imagined their story. Nizami, writing in Persian rather than Arabic, long after the legend had reached its definitive form, rendered it into an ornate romance (a long narrative of love or adventure). The original is in verse, though our translator has rendered into prose. If the writing seems rather more dense and elaborate that a modern novel, remember that this is not a novel, but a long poem. The setting, even then, was exotic. Nizami was writing for a sophisticated urban audience in one of the richest and most sophisticated empires in the world, about a long-ago imaginary past of nomadic Arab life. But both Nizami`s and Qays` cultures had in common that men and women were rigidly separated, marriages were arranged, and love played a much larger role in ...

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