Risible Rhymes

128 pages

October, 2016

ISBN: 9781479877928

$30

Cloth

Also available in

Subjects:

Arabic Literature

Part of the Library of Arabic Literature series

Authors

Muhammad ibn Mahfuz al-Sanhuri is an 11th/17th-century author who likely hailed from Egypt’s Fayyum region, although nothing else is known about him.

All books by Muhammad ibn Mahfuz al-Sanhuri

Humphrey Davies is an award-winning translator of some twenty works of modern Arabic literature, among them Alaa Al-Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building, four novels by Elias Khoury, including Gate of the Sun, and Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg over Leg. He has also made a critical edition, translation, and lexicon of the Ottoman-period Hazz al-quhuf bi-sharh qasid Abi Shaduf (Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded) by Yusuf al-Shirbini and compiled with a colleague an anthology entitled Al-‘ammiyyah al-misriyyah al-maktubah: mukhtarat min 1400 ila 2009 (Egyptian Colloquial Writing: selections from 1400 to 2009). He read Arabic at the University of Cambridge, received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, and, previous to undertaking his first translation in 2003, worked for social development and research organizations in Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, and Sudan. He is affiliated with the American University in Cairo, where he lives.

All books by Humphrey Davies

Written in mid-17th century Egypt, Risible Rhymes is in part a short, comic disquisition on “rural” verse, mocking the pretensions and absurdities of uneducated poets from Egypt’s countryside. The interest in the countryside as a cultural, social, economic, and religious locus in its own right that is hinted at in this work may be unique in pre-twentieth-century Arabic literature. As such, the work provides a companion piece to its slightly younger contemporary, Yusuf al-Shirbini’s Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded, which also takes examples of mock-rural poems and subjects them to grammatical analysis. The overlap between the two texts may indicate that they both emanate from a common corpus of pseudo-rural verse that circulated in Ottoman Egypt. Risible Rhymes also examines various kinds of puzzle poems—another popular genre of the day—and presents a debate between scholars over a line of verse by the tenth-century poet al-Mutanabbi. Taken as a whole, Risible Rhymes offers intriguing insight into the critical concerns of mid-Ottoman Egypt, showcasing the intense preoccupation with wordplay, grammar, and stylistics that dominated discussions of poetry in al-Sanhuri’s day and shedding light on the literature of this understudied era.