cover image Layli and Majnun

Layli and Majnun

Nezami Ganjavi, trans. from the Persian by Dick Davis. Mage, $50 (320p) ISBN 978-1-949445-15-2

In this substantial volume, Davis offers the first verse translation of the 12th-century Persian poet Nezami, whose love story between Layli and Majnun has been likened to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Similarities abound between the two texts, which both relay the trials of lovers thwarted by their families: “Their mingled scents were sweet, as though no care/ Or sorrow could survive when they were there,/ But even so their mingled, bitter cries/ Proclaimed their sadness to the morning skies./ Love came; its sword did not discriminate/ But cleared the house, and left it to its fate.” Written in a highly regular rhyme scheme, Davis’s rhythmic translation is full of lush imagery, with each title signaling a section of the story (“Majnun’s Father Advises His Son,” “Majnun Frees Another Deer from a Huntsman”). As Davis states in his introduction, these poems are “hybrid affairs in which... mores and sensibilities are blended with something that has originated in a remote time or place, or both,” and the story shares notable affinities with the prose romances of other cultures. This is a highly engaging tale of impossible love. (Sept.)