By Philip Kennedy
A readable survey of this celebrated ninth century Arab poet.
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Extra info for Abu Nuwas (Makers of the Muslim World)
Abu Nuwas is all too easily remembered exclusively as a “ritual clown” and for his bacchic and homoerotic poetry, and, at the other extreme, for the more mainstream eulogies and satires. But the creative and mercurial charm of the man seems to lie as much in the cumulative effect of such as the following anecdote: he once traveled withWaliba ibn al-Hubab from Kufa to Hira, on something of a poetic pilgrimage. ” And so they went on, gastronomy giving way to connoisseurship of wine, their reverie only finally being pricked by arrival at Hira.
D. iv, 216–7) The Faustian theme is inverted: the poet imposes himself compellingly (and sarcastically) upon the Devil, with no hint of Mephistophelian mediation. Little real virtue is displayed here, of course;rather we encounter the momentum so typical of the poet’s lyric narratives: the contrived movement from abstinence, if only as a looming hazard (fancifully and obliquely contrived), to consummated physical desire. This dynamic frequently has the feel of a stalling, perceptibly drawn out, from which the poem recovers in an accelerated and brisk finale.
Yet this posture was tongue-in-cheek since he was no apostate, and he was at some profound level unshakably a Muslim despite sundry irreverent remarks and witticisms. His guardian, one Zakariya’al-Qushari,once remonstrated with him that he could find no copy of the Qur’an in his house. The prayer-leader began reciting Sura 109 “O ye unbelievers! – ” To which Abu Nuwas responded: “Here I am! ”This is provocation,not unbelief;and it is at root no different in motive to his endearing caution about a Persian “heretic”(zindiq):“Beware the face of ‘Ubbuwayhi!
Abu Nuwas (Makers of the Muslim World) by Philip Kennedy