Brian Pearce

Tamburlaine’s Jester

(Summer 1956)

From Anglo-Soviet Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2, Summer 1956.
Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Leonid Solovyev
Adventures in Bukhara
Lawrence and Wishart, 9/6

Hoja Nasr-ed-Din has long been no stranger to the Western reader with oriental interests. Seventy years ago that invaluable index of curious and amusing books the Bibliographia arcana listed a Brussels publication called Le sottisier de Nasr-Eddin-Hodja, bouffon de Tamberlan; being a collection, translated from the Turkish, of the adventures and sayings of this Til Eulenspiegel with an Arabian Nights background. In 1938 the Soviet Russian writer and translator Leonid Solovyev published a new version of some of the legends of this Disturber of the Peace (as he called the book, using one of the Hoja’s traditional ‘titles’), who is as well-known a figure in the folk-lore of the Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia as he is in that of Anatolia. This work has now been translated, by Tatiana Shebunina, for the entertainment of readers who enjoy tales in which social criticism is laced with picaresque and erotic adventure. Irrepressible and unendingly resourceful, Hoja Nasr-ed-Din risks mutilation and death to outwit a cruel Emir and a flint-hearted usurer, to steal the concubine of the former and free the debt-slaves of the latter.

The translation is so excellent, evoking so faithfully the atmosphere of the original, that it is hard to find fault with it. What a pity, though, that the hardy old solecism ‘vice-regent,’ for ‘vicegerent’, appears on page 198 (representing namestnik in the original): and that so virile a character as the Hoja should be made to talk of paying a ‘dowry’ to his intended father-in-law, when it is kalym – ‘bride-price’ – that is in question (p. 129).

Last updated on 6 June 2015