Jump to navigation. And those who insist on Urdu being a "foreign language" may learn a lesson or two from the tales of four dervishes. Urdu represents, though so few in our country are prepared to concede it, the values and traditions of a truly composite and syncretic culture. Read the Bagh-o-Bahar and you will know. Consider the following facts. It has since run into many editions and regaled readers of all generations and in most parts of the country.

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The complete review 's Review :. A Tale of Four Dervishes is among the best known and highly regarded works of Urdu fiction -- it remains "a monumental classic of Urdu literature", as Mohammed Zakir writes in his Introduction. It is actually a translation of sorts, based on a much earlier work and later variations thereof , the 14th century Qissa-e-Chahar Darvesh by Amir Khusrau.

Written at a time when there was little Urdu prose available, Mir Amman was urged to fashion this translation while at the Fort William College, to also help introduce the British to local customs and history through local literature; Mir Amman's version was then also soon translated into English.

The Urdu title of the original translates as 'Garden and Spring', and there's certainly more to it than just a tale of four dervishes. Azad Bakht's story frames all the others: he's a great king in Turkey and everything is picture-perfect -- except that he doesn't have a son.

When he hits forty this devastating fact that he has no proper heir leads to one hell of a mid-life crisis. He pretty much gives up on everything -- but can then be convinced that this is no way for a king to act.

But he remains unhappy about his situation, and one night he puts on a disguise and heads out of the palace The four dervishes are a pretty miserable lot at this point too: all wearing the dress of the dead and sitting quietly against each other with their heads on their knees. The king could not see their faces but by their postures he felt they were afflicted with grief. They seemed like dead figures on the wall. Each dervish, of course, has a story to tell, about why they are so sad and what they have lost.

And each, it turns out, encountered a "veiled rider in green clothes" when they were at their lowest point, who promised them some variation on the basic notion that: Three dervishes who are distressed and have seen the vicissitudes of life like you have will meet you soon in Turkey.

The king of that country is Azad Bakht. He too is distressed. When he meets all four of you, the wishes and desires of each one of you will be fulfilled. So the happy ending is pretty much a foregone conclusion -- but first each dervish and Azad Bakht relates their sorry tale and the highs and lows they've experienced. They're all men from great and powerful families -- a merchant, Persian princes, the son of the Emperor of China -- but they've had terrible reversals in their lives.

And the story-telling doesn't end there, as some of the accounts allow for stories within stories, describing the lives of yet other troubled souls; among these is the best of the lot, in Azad Bakht's account, as Khwaja the Dog-Worshipper suffers repeatedly at the hands of his good-for-nothing brothers: hilariously he always gets back on his feet again and does exceptionally well for himself, only to encounter his brothers and lose everything yet again.

A Tale of Four Dervishes benefits greatly from being of the right length and proportions: enjoyable though Decameron -like collections may be, it's hard for authors to maintain enough control to keep the stories from pulling the reader in too many directions or create any sort of satisfying and cohesive whole. Mir Amman offers up some very good stories, but doesn't linger -- and doesn't get too carried away.

And while the framing device -- Azad Bakht's misery over not having sired a son -- is pretty silly and its resolution extraordinarily silly , it serves its function well.

Mir Amman does, however, indulge in a bit of a flight of fancy in extending the resolution in a Mohammed Zakir's translation of a text that is meant to be very accessible is certainly fluid; if anything it reads almost too smoothly: expressions like the admonition to "keep it between you and me and the lamppost" seem distinctly out of place, even as they go down very easily.

With its many story-layers, A Tale of Four Dervishes is a rich and entertaining read. From the Lear-like tale of the princess who proves fate and god provide and decide all, to some cross-dressing disguises and star-crossed love affairs, and a dog with a ruby-collar a thought so offensive that Azad Bakht immediately orders the vizier who suggests such a thing exists executed -- though it doesn't come to that , there's impressive variety here too -- without anything ever going on too long.

Very enjoyable, certainly worthwhile. Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. A Tale of Four Dervishes - Canada. A Tale of Four Dervishes - India.

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Book review: Mir Amman's 'A Tale of Four Dervishes'

While legend says that Amir Khusro was the author, the tales were written long after his death. The book is in some ways similar to the Thousand and One Nights in its method of framing and linking unfinished stories within each other. The central character is a king, Azad Bakht, who falls into depression after thinking about his own mortality, and so sets out from his palace seeking wise men. He comes upon four dervishes in a cemetery, and listens to their fantastical stories. Each Dervish narrates his own story, which is basically on love and fidelity in their own past lives. When the fourth dervish finishes his tale, the king Azadbakht suddenly learns that one of his wives has just born the son to him.


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