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The Re-creation of a Middle Eastern Story in Latin America

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Abstract This paper introduces an allegorical story, narrated by the Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi in his celebrated Masnavi, and traces the story in two apposite chronological directions. After elucidating the historical sources of the story, it moves forward to the present time to show how the Rumi’s piece traveled in space as far as Latin America to inspire Paulo Coelho in writing his novel, The alchemist. The role played in this cultural contact by Jorges Luis Borges is also considered.

1. Borges Jorge Luis Hurley Andrew Collected Fictions 1998 New York
2. Borges Jorge Luis Mir‘alā’i Ahmad The Thousand You’s of Borges 2005 2nd ed. Tehran as hezār-tōhā-ye Bōrkhes
3. Coelho Paulo O Alquimista 1991 Rio de Janeiro English tr. by Alan R. Clarke as The Alchemist. New York, 2006; Persian tr. by Ārash Hejāzi as Pāvlo Kuylo, Kimiāgar, 8th ed., Tehran, 2003
4. Coelho Paulo Veronika decide morrer 1990 Rio de Janeiro English tr. by Margaret Jull Costa as Veronika Decides to Die, London, 1998; Persian tr. by Ārash Hejāzi as Veronikā tasmim migirad, 14th ed., Tehran, 2003
5. Coelho Paulo Brida 1990 Rio de Janeiro Persian tr. by Ārash Hejāzi and Bahrām Jaʿfari, 13th ed., Tehran, 2005
6. Coelho Paulo Ardakāni Susan Maktub 2005 2nd ed. Tehran as Maktub
7. Foruzānfar Badiʿ al-Zamān Ma’ākhez-e qesas-e Masnavi 1968 2nd ed. Tehran (The origins of the stories of the Masnavi)
8. Gölpınarlı Abdülbaki (ʿAbd al-Bāqi Golpinārli) Sobhāni Towfiq Nasr o sharh-e Masnavi-e maʿnavi 2002Vol III 3rd ed. Tehran (Prose [sic] and explanation of the Masnavi)
9. Gölpınarlı Abdülbaki (ʿAbd al-Bāqi Golpinārli) Mevlânâ Celâleddin: Hayatı, Felsefesi, Eserlerinden Seçmeler 1951 Istanbul Persian tr. by Towfiq Sobhāni as Mowlānā Jalāl-al-Din: zendagāni, falsafa, āsār va gozida’i az ānhā, Tehran, 1984
10. Khānlari-Kiā Zahrā Farhang-e adabiyāt-e jahān 2006 repr. Tehran (Dictionary of world literature)
11. Rumi Balkhi Jalāl al-Din Mohammad Nicholson Reynold Alleyne Masnavi 2003 repr. Tehran as The Mathnawí of Jalálu’ddín Rúmí London, 1940
12. Sajjādi Sayyed Jaʿfar Farhang-e estelāhāt o taʿbirāt-e erfāni 1994 2nd ed. Tehran (Dictionary of mystical idioms and interpretations)
13. FN22 With regard to Henry Miller’s two books, Tropic of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (1939), it has been said, “These two works, which show Miller’s satirical talent, are in fact confessions that explode loudly from within him to the outer world” (Khānlari-Kiā, 1334).
14. FN33 For more information on the life of this writer, see the Introduction of Coelho’s Brida. Some of his later writings are: The Greatest Gift (1991); The Valkyries (1992); By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994); Maktub (1994); The Fifth Mountain (1996); The Manual of the Warrior of Light (1997); Love Letters from a Prophet (1997); The Second Maktub (1997); Veronika Decides to Die (2000); Fathers, Sons and Grandsons (2001).
15. FN44 See the critical literature included at the end of the Persian edition of Coelho’s The Alchemist.
16. FN55 The slash separates the page number(s) in the Persian edition on the left from those of the English edition on the right.
17. FN66 Compare to the sheriff ’s beating of the dervish from Baghdad.
18. FN77 Borges had in fact carefully studied Edward G. Browne’s History of the Persian Literature as a student at the University of Cambridge, as he told S.A. Arjomand in 1977. (The Editor)

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