Recently I was translating a medieval Syriac poem lamenting a deacon who converted to Islam, and I got stuck on a single word. Different manuscripts, as is often the case, contained different readings of that word, but the options were either nonsensical or not in the dictionaries. The only other scholar to work with the text proposed an emendation which was semantically sensible but poetically impossible. What’s a translator to do? I found a way through, turning a philological detail into a methodological point about late medieval Syriac texts. Continue reading
At this time a person named Mutanabbi was famous in poetry, and he had a book of poetry in Arabic writing, and he is greatly praised among the people of the Arabs.
It’s not much, and it does not tell us anything about the poet which we did not know from other, fuller sources. But it does tell us a bit about the reception of the poet, namely that this Muslim poet and his work were known in Christian social circles in what is today eastern Turkey. It is a further example that medieval Middle Eastern culture was not divided along religious lines.