Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded

Volume Two

360 pages

July, 2016

ISBN: 9781479838905

$40

Cloth

Add to Cart Available: 6/10/2016

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Subjects:

Arabic Literature

Part of the Library of Arabic Literature series

Authors

All books by Yusuf al-Shirbini

Humphrey Davies is an award-winning translator of Arabic literature from the Ottoman period to the present.  Writers he has translated include Elias Khoury, Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa Al Aswany, Bahaa Taher, Mourid Barghouti, Muhammad Mustagab, Gamal al-Ghitani, Hamdy el-Gazzar, Khaled Al-Berry, and Ahmed Alaidy, as well as Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq and Yusuf al-Shirbini for the Library of Arabic Literature. He has also authored, with Madiha Doss, an anthology of writings in Egyptian colloquial Arabic. He lives in Cairo.

All books by Humphrey Davies

Unique in pre-20th-century Arabic literature for taking the countryside as its central theme, Yusuf al-Shirbini’s Brains Confounded combines a mordant satire on seventeenth-century Egyptian rural society with a hilarious parody of the verse-and-commentary genre so beloved by scholars of his day.
 
In Volume One, Al-Shirbini describes the three rural “types”—peasant cultivator, village man-of-religion and rural dervish—offering numerous anecdotes testifying to the ignorance, dirtiness, illiteracy, lack of proper religious understanding, and criminality of each. He follows it in Volume Two with a 47-line poem supposedly written by a peasant named Abu Shaduf, who charts the rise and fall of his fortunes and bewails, above all, the lack of access to delicious foods to which his poverty has condemned him. Wielding the scholarly tools of elite literature, al-Shirbini responds to the poem with derision and ridicule, dotting his satire of the ignorant rustic with numerous digressions into love, food, and flatulence.
 
Witty, bawdy, and vicious, Brains Confounded belongs to an unrecognized genre from an understudied period in Egypt’s Ottoman history, and is a work of outstanding importance for the study of pre-modern colloquial Egyptian Arabic, pitting the “coarse” rural masses against the “refined” and urbane in a contest for cultural and religious primacy, with a heavy emphasis on the writing of verse as a yardstick of social acceptability.