Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Adventures of Amir Hamza: Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjuction

The Adventures of Amir Hamza (Modern Library) (Hardcover)by Ghalib Lakhnavi (Author), Abdullah Bilgrami (Author), Hamid Dabashi (Introduction), Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Translator).

From Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Amir-Hamza-Modern-Library/dp/0679643540/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205887677&sr=1-1.

I acquired this book from the Georgia library system in December 2008, and I finally finished it on April 20, 2009. The book is 900 pages. I enjoyed it for the first 400 pages, but it seemed so repetitive after awhile. I guess I began, as an ostensibly responsible adult, to feel guilty spending time reading it and not spending time doing my work. The material seems much more suited to oral storytelling or movies. At the same time, by conservative American and Muslim standards, it's somewhat racy for the Harry Potter age young readers who might not feel that guilt of spending all the time required in reading the book.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi's introduction, which I recommend reading only after you've completed the book or exhausted yourself in the effort, expresses this adult/adolescent tension our modern lives produce in some of us (including me).

I also am somewhat concerned that Indian/Pakistani/Bengali-origin Muslim-Americans (are non-Muslim Desi-Americans different?) don't seem to care to learn "high" Indian culture. I don't know any who make an effort to learn to read and write in Urdu, and it seems they think that Bollywood is the pinnacle of Indian culture. Now I'm no Hindophile, but it does seem to me bad that there seems to be little desire to put much effort into India's literary traditions in which many of their grandparents and great-grandparents indulged.

The book is certainly no source of multi-cultural values. Its stories are sexist, racist, elitist and violent. So you really just need to get into the fantasy world. Gird your armor, lift your mace, beware the glances of beautiful 14-year old girls who may capture your heart, and roam the world of men and jinn to prove your mettle!

Some links discussing the book:
I'm seeking comments from people with better knowledge of the Dastan literature of Iran and India.

Although Amir Hamza is a hero, I think he is a different kind of hero than the Greek tragic figure or the nationalist, comic superheroes of WW II United States like Superman and Captain America. If there was to be a movie adaptation, I hope that it would not transform Amir Hamza into an Arab or "Oriental" superficial version of these U.S. nationalist narratives. (Are there Bollywood or Iranian film versions of Amir Hamza's tales?) His ayyari companion Amar and others are also compelling characters.

Another tricky character to adapt to the big screen would be Goha or Nasruddin Khoja, who combines wisdom and foolishness to expose the truth of the human condition. Note that there is a French-Tunisian film starring Omar Sharif and Claudia Cardinale ("Once Upon a Time in the West") entitled "Goha." There are also several translations of Goha tales into English.

I also recently learned that Professor Musharraf Ali Farooqi has another book about Amir Hamza's adventures coming out soon. It's entitled Hoshruba. I've ordered it from www.hoshruba.com.

Updated January 9, 2015: Sahibqirani: An Ideal of Kingship and Manhood in the Romance of Amir Hamza by Quratulain Shirazi

1 comment:

Ayman H Fadel said...

As a further testimony to the lack of enthusiasm in North America for Indian culture beyond balle balle, The Annual of Urdu Studies is in financial difficulty.