Friday, November 23, 2007

TLS November 2 2007

from Francis Robinson's review of Journal of Emperor Babur, translated by Annette Susannah Beveridge; adapted and abridged by Dilip Hiro:

Babur was one of four warriors of Turkic-speaking stock who, in a period of
less than a century, founded a major state in the heart of the Eurasian region
reaching from the Balkans to Bengal. . . . When Babur died in 1530, he had
laid the basis of the Mughal Empire which was to last until 1858, and which to
the end of the seventeenth century was the greatest of these states in wealth
and power. While remaining religiously inclusive for much of its existence, this
Empire, nevertheless, continued to sustain the Muslim political frame,
established by the Delhi Sultanate, which led to the sub-continent becoming home
to one-third of the world's Muslims, a fact of major geopolitical


Babur is also rightly famed for his autobiography, the Babur Nama.
Throughout his life he kept a journal, which in his last years he worked into
autobiographical form. . . .

. . . He tells us of his first discovery of love, of unreasoning passion:
"In those days I discovered in myself a strange inclination, no a mad
infatuation - for a boy in the camp's bazaar, his name Baburi . . .".He found
himself speechless and overcome with confusion whenever he met the boy:

In that maelstrom of desire and passion, and under the stress of youthful
folly, I used to wander, bareheaded and barefoot, through streets and lanes,
orchards and vineyards. I showed civility neither to friends nor to strangers,
took no care of myself or others.


As a work of world literature it has been rated a worthy companion of the
confessions of St. Augustine and Rousseau, and the autobiography of Gibbon. Dale
[author of The Garden of the Eight Paradises: Babur and the culture of
empire in Central Asia, Afghanistan and India (1483-1530)
] rightly compared
it with that other most revealing autobiography of the sixteenth century, The
Life of Benvenuto Cellini, the Renaissance sculptor and goldsmith. In doing so
he goes on to make a further point that [E. M.]Forster also made, which is to
note the similarities between the late-Timurid worlds of Samarqand and Herat and
those of Renaissance Florence and Siena. In both there flourished egotism and
brutality alongside aesthetic sensibility and high cultivation.


from Dan Jacobson's Commentary "Border crossings" on Wordsworth:

At his best he was a peculiarly physiological poet--by which I mean that he
managed to articulate the anonymous, humble, non-volitional bodily processes
that precede all thought, and without which thinking cannot take place. In
addition to all the other modes in which he wrote, he was in effect a poet of
the autonomic nervous system, the spinal cord, the digestive tract, the
circulation of the blood; he was also preoccupied to an exceptional degree with
the capacity of people to notice things without being conscious of having done
so, and to retain an unrecognized memory of them until some later circumstance
should stir it into life.

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