Mem u Zîn – A Classical 17th-Century Epic

  • ISBN: 978-3-932574-28-3
  • Preis: 24,90 €
  • Sprachen: English
  • Auflage: 1. edition 2018, 320 p. + 32 coloured minitures

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Love, betrayal, and fate – this is the story the epic Mem and Zîn tells so poignantly and masterfully that it has taken the rank of the national epic of the Kurds. It was penned by the Kurdish scholar, poet, and mystic Ehmedê Xanî, who in the middle of the 17th century experienced events fateful for the Kurdish people and wove them into his work: the partition of the country of Kurdistan and its annexation by the Ottoman Empire in the West and the Safavid Empire in the East. Now this epic appears for the first time in German, translated verse for verse from the Kurdish, and in English, verse by verse from the German translation.

 

The story itself: Mem, the son of a scribe at the princely court, disguises himself as a girl to attend the Newroz (New Years) festival, where he meets Zîn, the sister of the Prince of Botan. Zîn, in turn, is dressed as a man. The two fall in love, but their affection is begrudged and their bond finally comes to a tragic end.

This is the story of an all-consuming love that, lacking physical closeness between the lovers, rises to a spiritual level. As a prologue to the story proper, Xanî sings of the wonders of God’s Creation, the intoxicating effect of wine, and the fate of the Kurdish people, which already stood under an unlucky star:

 

If only someday fate would smile upon the Kurds,

And we would someday waken from our slothful slumber!

If only a protector would arise for us,

A man in whom our proper king would make appearance!

The sword of Kurdish art would then be seen by all,

The value of our quill would be its own announcement.

 

Ehmedê Xanî, born in 1650 in the region Hakkarî in the uttermost southeast of today’s Turkey, is regarded as the founder of the Kurdish national idea, which is already visible in some passages of Mem and Zîn. Along with this classical love story, he compiled the first Kurdish dictionary (1683) and a book in verse on the foundations of Islam.

 

(Feryad Fazil Omar, translated by Mitch Cohen)