Troubador The Khamriyyat of Abu Nuwas

Released: 28/08/2015

ISBN: 9781784623166

Format: Paperback

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The Khamriyyat of Abu Nuwas

Medieval Bacchic Poetry

by

Abu Nuwas was a great Arabic poet whose poetry encapsulated the society of his time. It has now been twelve centuries since Abu Nuwas composed words as he trod the streets of Baghdad. For most of that period, major parts of his work were censored by state and mosque. It’s only recently that the suppressed material has been allowed to see the light of day, and this new translation of the known khamriyyat faithfully reflects the original. Abu Nuwas’s khamriyyat exhorts his listener to seek out pleasures. He pays homage to aged wine and to the tavern as a recourse for carnal pleasures, where the client is entertained by an engaging wine-server (saqi) who welcomes him with a kiss and urges him to drink. A whole body of symbolism revolves round the wine. At its heart is the feminine imagery; the wine (khamr, feminine) is the daughter of the vine, a bride brought out of its boudoir (vat) to be mated with water (ma’, masculine) to whom it submits at the mixing. That symbolism is a convenient vehicle for invoking a hetero/homo-erotic theme. Abu Nuwas does not seek his pleasures discreetly, asserting that a pleasure is not complete unless enjoyed openly. He is equally unreserved in his religious and social subversions. To an Arabist, the khamriyyat is a rich feast of lofty verse, witty allusions and dazzling imagery. Those qualities are reproduced here in a lucid and elegant translation that will delight the specialist as well as the general reader.

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