Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

The Wise Man and Collective Memory in Sa'di's Rose Garden: A Cognitive - Narrative Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal on Humanistic Ideology

The Wise Man and Collective Memory in Sa'di's Rose Garden: A Cognitive - Narrative Analysis

Article excerpt

Sa'di's Gulistan

Narrative accounts (i.e. life stories) occur all around us, in many areas of our human experience (e.g. written or verbal, prose, poetry, folk tales, diaries, and letters). One of the most important forms of narrative is written life stories. Sa'di's (1213-1291 / 1183 or 1184-1283) Gulistan (Rose Garden, written in 1258) is an excellent example of such a narration. The thirteenth-century Persian poet, writer and thinker Sa' di (pronounced Sahdee), generally known in literary history as Muslih-al Din Mushrif- ibnAbdullah, belongs to a group of writers known as Shirazis. He is regarded as one of the greatest figures in Persian literature. He is best-known for his major works Bustan, or The Orchard and Gulistan, or The Rose Garden. Both of these works are filled with semi-autobiographical stories, philosophical reflections, pieces of practical wisdom, and humorous anecdotes and observations. The books are valued not only for their elegant language and entertaining style, but also for their role as a rich source of information about the culture in which Sa' di lived and worked. Copies of The Orchard and The Rose Garden during Sa'di's lifetime began to be circulated throughout Persia and the author was celebrated by his contemporaries as "The Sheikh" or "wise (old) man." Sa' di is considered as having an influence on the culture and language of Iran that equals in significance the role of William Shakespeare in the history of English language and literature. He is recognized not only for the scope and quality of his writing, but also for the depth of his social thought.

Sa'di left his native town at a young age and returned to Shiraz after 30 years. The unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Persia led him to wander abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. He also refers in his work to travels in India and Central Asia. His Gulistan or Rose Garden is a product of his life- time written as the narration of his experience in reminiscences, advice, and reflections. It is believed that the stories of Gulistan are based on incidents from his itinerant years.

As famous Iranian critic Muhammad Taqi Bahar (1337/1957) says "It is in the Gulistan that one must look to discover Sa'di's art, mastery and personality. Had this book, small in size but large in substance, not existed two thirds of the master's personality and sublime rank would vanish..." The stories are characterized by a timeless quality, which is why they are just as understandable today as they were in previous centuries and are guaranteed to prove an amusing and stimulating exercise for future people's imagination.

The Gulistan is composed of 8 chapters or sections, an introduction and a conclusion. The chapters' titles are: "on the manners of kings", "on the moral of dervishes", "on the excellence of content", "on the advantage of silence", "on love and youth", "on weakness and old age", "on the effects of education", and "on rules for conduct in life". His prose style, described as "simple but impossible to imitate" flows quite naturally and effortlessly. Its simplicity, however, is grounded in a semantic web consisting of synonymy, homophony, and oxymoron buttressed by internal rhythm and external rhyme. The Gulistan combines narrative with commentary, but its medium is dominantiy prose, the verse (both Persian and Arabic) being employed only to heighten the effect of the moral commentary (Yohannan, 1987, p. 57). Sa'di's style is pure, simple and elegant. His tone is sometimes severe, sometimes cheerful, blending humor with cynicism. Bahar (1337/1957) declares that in this work Sa' di invented a wholly new style of prose. It can be regarded as a paragon in humanistic literature which has produced a new genre.

The Gulistan inquires into the question of what constitutes the good human life. We are struck, first of all, by the personal character of the stories; many of them relate the experiences of the past in some part of Sa'di's travels, expressing his comments upon what he had seen and heard. …

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