classics

The Salty Language of an Early Biography of Muhammad

Sean W. Anthony, assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon, brings a historian’s eye to his work editing and translating Maʿmar ibn Rāshid’s Maghāzī, or The Expeditions: An Early Biography of Muḥammad. The text explores the early life of the prophet and his community and, Anthony says, contains “humor, adventure, tragedy, and all the ingredients of great stories.”

Who’s the Heretic Here?

Translator Gregor Schoeler notes that Abul ʿAla al-Maʿarri’s “The Epistle of Forgiveness” has been linked to Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Yet al-Maʿarri’s description of the hereafter, unlike Dante’s, seems shot through with a strong sense of irony. What does al-Ma’arri mean by it? When is — and isn’t — he being ironic? Schoeler talks about the parallels between the “Epistle” and the “Divine Comedy” and why irony complicates the translation process.

On Ibn al-Hajjaj, Whose Poems Schoolboys Were Beaten for Memorizing

If there were two disappointments I had while reading the opening chapter of Sinan Antoon’s The Poetics of the Obscene in Premodern Arabic Poetry, “Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf: Genealogies,” they were: 1) that the full book is listed at more than $70, and 2) that there wasn’t a companion historical novel that gives full imaginative license to a re-crafting of Ibn al-Hajjaj and his contemporaries.

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