As crossroads between economic interests and cultural identities from around the world, Belgrade celebrated the life and works of the great Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (full name Jamaluddin Abū Muḥammad Ilyās ibn Yūsuf ibn Zakī ibn Muʿayyid) last night, who lived between 1141 and 1209 C.E.
The event, hosted by the Cultural Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Belgrade, was attended by a number of guests who gathered in the conference room of the Municipal Library to learn more about one of the most prominent Persian poets of all time.
The director of the Iranian Cultural Center, Amir Purpezesk, and Dr Amir Safari, reader of Iranian language and literature at the University of Belgrade, gave welcome speeches in which they said that Ganjavi was one of the pillars of classical Persian poetry, together with Firduzi, Sa’di Shirazi, Rumi and Hafez Shirazi.
One of Ganjavi’s more prominent works is the famous Quintet (a five-piece literary accomplishment), which covers various topics and themes from Masnavi (a poetic collection of anecdotes and stories derived from the Quran):
- Makhzan al-asrār (Emporium of Secrets) of a mystical-religious subject;
- Khosrow and Shirin, a novelistic tone, which title is derived from the names of one of the most famous couples in Persian letters;
- Layla and Majnun, another novel in verse, which protagonist is another famous couple frequently mentioned in the Arab literary tradition;
- Eskandar-name (Alexandreid), which tells the story of Alexander’s eastern history in over 10,000 verses, divided into two parts: the Sharaf-name (Book of Glory), on the Greek king’s warlike exploits, and Eqbal-name (Book of Fortune) on the philosopher and prophet Alexander (identified by exegetes with the Qur’anic Dhu l-Qarnayn of sūra XVIII of the Qur’an), and
- Haft Peykar (The Seven Effigies), a “coming-of-age novel” featuring the fourth-century Sasanian ruler Bahram Gur (Vahram V). The Seven Effigies contains one of the most ancient known versions of the story of Turandot, a Persian name that means “daughter of Turan”, later used by Puccini in his famous opera.
Ganjavi is a poet who left a fundamental legacy in the wisdom system of the Near East. Many of his couplets have become widely used sayings and objects of reflection and inner growth for millions of people. Here are some of them:
- “Whatever happens to us has its own meaning, though we often find it difficult to grasp it. In the Book of Life, each page has two sides. On one we write our plans, our dreams, our hopes; the other page is written by providence, which rarely crosses our desires.”
- “Even if we don’t like to show our weaknesses to the world, we must have friends, sincere and true as mirrors, able to reveal our mistakes so that we can face them and heal them. Let me be your mirror.”
- “What we have and what we own is nothing more than a loan and not even a long-term one! Do not cling to what you have been given, for joy and desire for possession are threads that bind you to the fleeting world.”
Ganjavi’s immense body of work is still little known in Western countries. It contains endless references to ancient oriental tales and ethical reflections that have their roots in the classical Greek world. Ganjavi left us a heritage that deserves to be studied in more depth, enriches our ability to understand humankind’s behaviour and helps us to face life.
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