A pedagogical approach to the defense of "Dardedel"
By Jolita Kavaliunas
October 9, 2003
As a professor of modern languages and literature,
read numerous scholarly articles and book reviews. Literary criticism is one
of my specialties. I have presided over committees awarding literary prizes;
I have translated prose and poetry. As a matter of fact, my translation of one
of Manoucher Parvin's poems has recently appeared in the Lithuanian press. I've
published scholarly articles, creative pieces, and a book translation,
in the languages
of Lithuanian, French and English. At the present, I'm a Professor Emeritus
at the University of Akron.
Rumi, Hafez & Love in New York embodies a beautiful love story between the charming and
brilliant Mitra--a goddess--and the reincarnated legendary poet Hafez--a
creative rebel! Rumi changes into a variety of characters at will. His wisdom
illuminates the novel like sunshine! Professor Pirooz represents the modern
man. The novel is packed with dazzling ideas, amusing subplots and unexpected
turns of events. And it makes the reader laugh out loud, or sob!
Because of my favorable evaluation -- and I'm not
alone in that -- I take exception to Ms Davaran's unsubstantiated
negative comments about Dardedel [Khoda
Hafez Rumi, A
bridge to nowhere].
Ms Davaran defines herself as a student in the Near
Eastern Studies Department at University of California, Berkely.
She is writing a
dissertation for a degree in this field hoping to become an expert in it. But
let us assume that she submitted her review of Dardedel as partial
fulfillment of requirements for my class. As I read the paper, what first
struck me is that her "book review" is also an "author review." This
unacceptable. Only the text should matter and only the text should be
reviewed. What is more, she should not show disrespect to its author, a
distinguished scholar whose publishing record includes a number of books and
Then, I would raise some questions and ask for evidence
to substantiate her conclusions. Let us imagine a discussion in
my office: Ms Davaran, your analysis
is based on two pillars, or criteria: first, the authority, or "expertise," of
the author to write the novel, and second,
the "authenticity" of the work itself. In fact, you advise Professor
not to do again what he is not able to do now--namely, to write novels or
translate literary works from the Persian to the English.
I assume the above
criteria of "expertise" and "authenticity" also apply to
your own work--your"
expertise" to write book reviews, your "authority" to decide who
who should not write novels, and, finally, the "authenticity" of your
text. That's fair enough, wouldn't you agree? How can one fail to apply one's
own rules to one's own works? And so should Davaran, as well.
I. Authority, or expertise of the author
A. You, Ms Davaran, claim that Parvin's translation
of Rumi and Hafez are inadequate, to put it mildly.
1. Are you an expert translator with a body of published
2. Have you ever contributed to theories of translation,
is a field in itself?
3. Have you provided any analysis of Parvin's translations
in any one of the pages of your assertions/criticisms.
4. If your answer is negative to all of the above
questions, then you should not engage in "translation criticism" because you yourself
expertise, and thus, according to your rule, lack credibility. As you say
yourself, one must do what one is capable of doing. By the way, did you notice
that the acknowledgment of "Dardedel" contains the name of two renowned
B. Ms Davaran, you do object to the way God speaks
1. Do you have the "expertise" to determine
how God should speak in a modern language -- in this case, English
-- in the 21st Century? Has
God revealed to you how he speaks these days? Where and how did you acquire
this "expertise?" By revelation?
2. Or do you perhaps imply that God should speak
to Pirooz in a way approved by you, or like he supposedly spoke
in olden times to prophets?
Give God a break. Maybe He is modernizing so as to be better understood by
Pirooz, realizing that His previous manner of speaking wasn't all that
effective! Just as he spoke the spoken language of the time of the prophets,
so he speaks the spoken language of today. This is your problem with God, not
with Parvin's work!
Ms Davaran, your "credibility" is at
stake here. Why
prescribe, if not pontificate on, God's manner of speaking in the novel?
Your opinion of God's spoken word in the present is no more valid
than that of any
other man or beast! But God is still very articulate in Dardedel, even
he is merely "dardedeling" with Pirooz!
C. You do highly praise Parvin's knowledge of
But this is not a credible compliment unless you provide evidence
your own expertise in the sciences. Are you a scientist of a
level to be able to evaluate the
work of proven scientists? If your answer is negative, then you
are again in violation of your own criteria of what one can say or write.
You simply lack"
credibility," according to yourself! There is no way for you to know that
Parvin's scientific knowledge is so compelling--if I am to assume that this
assertion is from your own "inner voice?"
D. Conclusion on the authority or expertise requirement
for writing a text.
Ms Davaran, I am still using your criterion of "expertise" as a
necessary prerequisite for writing a text. Let us consider or put on an"
expertise" scale the individuals involved: on one side we have the author
Parvin, an ingenious polymath, together with several of his readers: Jerry
Clinton from Princeton University, recipient of the highest award for his
translation of Ferdowsi; Rob Levandoski, a new shining star in American
literature; and my humble self with a lifetime of experience in literary
criticism. On the other side we have you. Who, do you think, needs more
credibility? You or all of us collectively? Note that in asking this
question, I am only following your line of reasoning.
II. Authenticity of the
A. Now let us examine your "authenticity" criterion
and how it applies
to your own work, Ms Davaran.
You use Henry James "inner voice" authenticity test as if it were the
word of God. First of all, modern psychology refutes that there is such a
thing as a unique "inner voice" because individuals often compromise
the sake of self-preservation, are confused, hallucinate, or simply contradict
themselves. The subconscious and consciousness mix in the "inner voice" in
variety of intractable ways.
In fact, there are several persons/identities in
each body, in each one of us in various degrees! The criterion of "inner
voice" as acid test of authenticity is discredited and thus, disregarded
many great contemporary writers who comfortably use the third person narrator
or omniscient narrator. Also, sharp eyes/minds like Rumi, Dostoyevsky, Parvin,
or a psychologist can see in a person more than the person can see within
himself or herself.
B. But let us say James' criterion is valid. Let
us examine its implications and see if you still approve of using
1. Ms Davaran, I wish to point out to you that
James' criterion for authenticity not only refutes the great
works of Dostoyevsky and
Tolstoy, as you pointed out, but also Rumi's stories as well! Do you realize,
or are your conscious of the fact that, armed with James' criterion, as you
refute Parvin's fiction, so you refute virtually all the masterpieces of the
past, including stories in the holy books whenever authors (!) speak for
2. If your answer is yes, then how sad it is that
blind subservience to James has led you to set afire the great
literary treasures of
human history. Are you aware of the implications of your reasoning?
3. If the
answer is no, that you did not really know what you
were saying, then you have contradicted yourself in your review of Dardedel. Unless
you write comedy, self-contradiction in any text is a quick ticket to lack
of credibility in the text, which in this case, your review of Dardedel proves to be.
I do not wish to burden you with more
refutations of your critique, Ms Davaran. Some of your points
as reported by other respondents. Let
me add that Parvin has made significant creative contributions in several
fields. He is an exceptional intellectual. You can be as critical of his work
as you may, but why such harsh personal remarks against his person? Has he
in any way harmed you prior to, or after your review of his book?
Should I insult you for your failing review? I have given the grade of
F to a student's book review occasionally, but never have I insulted the
student into the bargain.
Directly or indirectly, your book review implies
that you are an expert in the fields of translation, various
sciences, literary criticism and
theology, without providing any evidence for this implication. You only claim
to be a university student working on a degree in the Near Eastern area. Which
claim is true then, the implicit or the explicit one? There seems to be a
confusion of sorts, or a self-righteousness of sorts. Even though Parvin's
Dardedel as well as his previous novels are praised
by professional critics, you implicitly command him not to write
any more novels.
Why do you
want Parvin to stop writing, to act as if he were already dead? Is this being
considerate? Ms Davaran, even God does not do this. Do you not know that
some people are born with extraordinary mental and physical gifts?
Did not Omar
Khayyam produce great poetry, contributed to mathematics and astronomy
simultaneously? Would you have ordered him to specialize and
do what he knows
best? And now and then individuals like him sprout here and there. Are
we not to believe in genius because we cannot imagine how they
do what they do?
Emory University Report writes that Parvin, as a boy, would simultaneously
play several games of chess blindfolded. In record time he
received his Ph.D. in economics at Columbia University without having taken
one single undergraduate course in the field! He has won many
awards. Parvin has
gained praises for his literary work in English, which is quite a feat
considering that English is not his mother tongue nor is literature his
background! His first book was in electronic engineering; it was published
when he was in his early twenties! I wish that he would break
his silence and
provide us with a list of all his accomplishments.
Since you admit that you do not know Parvin's
previous work, how can you allow yourself to question his credibility?
Proof through ignorance,
accusations and assertions? Ms Davaran, you wrote: "[...] I thank Dr. Parvin
for giving me the chance to sting." This comment sounds sadistic on the
surface, but since it would ultimately hurt your reputation, it is really
masochistic. Do you think a book review is an appropriate place for
demonstrating psychological abnormalities? Do you not think these kinds of
problems are more suited to be discussed on a psychiatrist's couch? Your
statements are the very karma you mentioned fearing in your review. They will
Should we attack Parvin who, like many geniuses
in the past, is different and seems to effortlessly move from
field to field making major
contributions to them? I've learned that Hafez' home was sacked by the common
people and some of his poems were set afire. And out of fear he himself set
fire to some of his other poems. Ms Davaran, the person who signed your book
review--you yourself--hurt herself more than the author she reviewed. Please
get in touch with reality before you hurt yourself again. Please accept the
following advice from an experienced and caring professor.
Remember that Parvin will not be defined by your
little unkind "author" review. He--his life's work
will be defined by history. And remember, too, that your book
review, just like my entire collection of
scholarly papers and book reviews, will soon be forgotten like us ourselves,
thank God. But Dardedel will live on. It will bring delight to, and
understanding in, generations to come, and Parvin, the author, will live on
One of the numerous ideas, put beautifully in
Dardedel, applies to you, to us, and to all of mankind: "Wake
up before you can never wake up."As a professional critic,
I feel an obligation to clarify and finalize this debate concerning
this special book--Dardedel.
Jolita Kavaliunas is Professor Emeritus at
the University of Akron.
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