February 4, 2009
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Love and Power

An analytical reading of Ahmadi Khani’s Mam u Zin

By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

Part 1: Khani on his work

Mam u Zin is a self-conscious work. Khani knows what he is doing, how he is writing his book and what he wants to say and achieve. This kind of self-consciousness almost always produces theoretical and philosophical discourses. But Khani’s work is more than this. In fact through his own self-explanation he provides us with various guides to read his text or rather texts and delve into their depths and dimensions.  Khani in the prologue of his book says that he uses the traditional Kurdish tale of the love between the Kurdish prince Mam and Kurdish princess Zin as a ‘bahana’ for knitting other discourses and texts into the story. ‘Bahana’ in Kurdish means excuse but a more perfect English word is pretext. In fact the story is only a pre-text that is an initial first text, to introduce and incorporate at least three more parallel texts into his drama: the literary dramatic text of Mam u Zin’s love, an elaborate philosophical text and an ethnological/nationalist text.

He starts his prologue with the spiritual ritual of wine-drinking from the hands of the beautiful saqi (waitress):       

So that I will be insane and pour out diamonds
Become badly intoxicated and reveal the intimacies and anxieties of my heart
Without saying them, I will reveal all the secrets of the universe
I want to be melodious like a flute
And twitter like a parrot
Until all the revelations shine to me and all the maqams become known
Let me record the narrative of my heart and make Mam a pretext for this aim
That is why I want to extricate a new melody and bring back Mam and Zin to life again
These two lovers have been forgotten, sick and thin

Like a skilled physician, I will find the remedy for their ailment
I will revive these helpless despaired persons
A pain that has gone deep inside Mam’s heart
Zin whose inner soul hurts her
A girl so pure, protective, innocent and free from charges of sin
I want to make them renowned with method and style
And both lovers obtain a high grade in virtue

Open-minded, well-intentioned, good-natured and conscientious people
Would all talk well about my work and say “beautifully constructed”
People can be changed with love and those who from the beginning of life
Have been looking for love
Let them come and listen to this narrative and get comfort out of it
Let them listen with their ears, let others give it their hearts
And I hope that the students of science would not look for the mistakes of the talented
This record, if good or bad, I have exerted lots of hard work,
It is a fresh first product, a baby of little weight, weak
But I have not gone to try the tastes of other fruit gardens
Like a thief, look for other people’s possessions,
This shoot is the growth of my own heart’s garden
It is pure, immaculate, self-made, and fresh
A fresh produce, sweet or bitter, like a new child, has its own character
I hope that light-minded and pure-hearted people will not label these children ugly
If this fruit is not juicy to the right degree,
Just recognize it is Kurdish. I could only do so much
This child even if not pretty, she is my first child and very dear to me
This fruit, even if not sweet and delicious, is my child and very much loved by me 
She, her clothes, shoes, earrings, are made by me, I have not borrowed them
These words, meanings, phrases, constructions, structures, signs, subjects, topics, narration, symbols, eulogies and approaches
Style, attributes, interpretations and sounds
I have never borrowed from foreigners
They are all the product of my thinking; they are virgins, new brides, never touched before

I hope that those who keep secrets would not scorn and ridicule me
I am a dealer not a goldsmith
I am self-nurtured not trained, am an ordinary Kurd not a king,
I have brought up these topics of Kurdish way of life,
With the care of your benevolence endorse it, listen to it
Those who are interested, when they listen, let them be generous and hide its faults
Don’t insult the poet, if you can, say good things about him
Don’t be surprised by his mistakes and deficits
Explain them with a sense of partisanship

Khani offers here a whole agenda of a literary critical discourse.

1.    His role as author/originator: He emphasizes his role as author and creator of his innovative work. He stresses the originality of his work emanating from the fact that it is the product of his own brain and effort, it is his child, it is Kurdish, its subject matter is the revival of a Kurdish love story, and its aim is to portray Kurdish way of life, eternalize the pure love of two Kurdish lovers and protect their reputation after their death, to give an example of true love that will comfort and cure and change those who have been looking for love since the beginning of life.

2.    His philosophy of life: Khani clearly states that he wants to use the pre-text to reveal his own inner thoughts and express his philosophical vision of life, creation and love.

3.    His audience: Khani is self-conscious about the audience he writes to. The work is in Kurdish and those who read it or rather listen to it will be Kurds. He wants them not to ridicule the work because it is in Kurdish or has faults and deficits. He wants them to appreciate his hard work, his good intentions and his patriotic sense. He wants them to be partial in his support and emphasize its god aspects and beautiful construction.

4.    His methodology, artistic construction and style: Khani reveals that he is familiar with various forms, techniques and styles of literary construction and he consciously and creatively makes use of an astonishingly wide range of aesthetic and poetic devices, forms and crafts.

This introduction reveals a lot about the structure, construction and modality of Mam u Zin’s diverse but semantically and logically complementary discourses.

There is the theme of the original love story, the pretext. But this has been transformed with Khani’s extraordinary creative and erudite genius into a first class drama incorporating at every level of the narrative three parallel interwoven texts: the literary creative text with its firm formidable dramatic plot, the ethnological-nationalist text presenting Khani’s  knowledge and view of the problems, customs and national culture of his own nation and then the all pervasive and paramount philosophical text expressing Khani’s extraordinary erudite and intellectual coherent view of life, love, politics, creation and the world.

I will try in the next parts to give a succinct presentation of each of these texts within the compact literary dramatization of Mam u Zin’s tragedy.

Note: All the trasnlations are made b y the author


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