Risible Rhymes: Muḥammad ibn Maḥfūẓ al-Sanhūrī

Written in mid-seventeenth-century Egypt, Risible Rhymes is in part a short, comic disquisition on “rural” verse, mocking the pretensions and absurdities of uneducated poets from Egypt’s countryside.

The interest in the countryside as a cultural, social, economic, and religious locus in its own right that is hinted at in this work may be unique in pre-twentieth-century Arabic literature. In this way, the work serves as the basis for a more recent counterpart Yusuf al-Shirbini’s Brains Confused with the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded and also incorporates some mock-rural poems and subject them to grammar analysis. 

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The similarity between the two works could be a sign that both stem from the same corpus of pseudo-rural poems that was popular throughout Ottoman Egypt. Risible Rhymes also explores different kinds of puzzle poems, a genre that was also popular of the moment–and outlines the subject of a debate among scholars about the verse of the poet of the fourth/tenth century al-Mutanabbi.

In its entirety, Risible Rhymes provides fascinating insights into the crucial concerns of the mid-Ottoman period in Egypt and reveals the intense fascination with grammar, wordplay and stylistics that dominated discussions on poetry during al-Sanhuri’s time. It also helps in providing a glimpse into the literary works that was not studied in this era.

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A bilingual Arabic-English edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01E02RVAU
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ NYU Press (October 4, 2016)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ October 4, 2016
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1408 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 149 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled

Muhammad ibn Mahfuz al-Sanhuri is an eleventh/seventeenth-century author who likely hailed from Egypt’s Fayyum region, although nothing else is known about him.

Humphrey Davies is an award-winning translator of more than 25 works of contemporary Arabic literature, including Alaa Aswany’s the Yacoubian Building, five novels written by Elias Khoury, including Gate of the Sun and Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s leg over legs. He has also created the critical edition of the translation, lexicon, and translation of the Ottoman period. 

Brains Confused with The Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded by Yusuf al-Shirbini, as well as translations and editions from al-Tunisi’s The In Darfurand the Sanhuri’s The Risible rhymesfrom the same time period. Additionally, he’s co-authored with Madiha Doss an anthology of Arabic called Al-‘ammiyyah Al-Maktubah: the mukhtarat from 1400 to 2009. ( Egyptian Colloquial Writing: Selections from 1400 until 2009.) as well as co-written with Lesley Lababidi, 

A Field Guide to the Street Names of Central Cairo. He was a student of Arabic in The University of Cambridge, received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley before he began his very first translation, in the year 2003 he was working in research and social development organisations across Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine and Sudan. He is associated with Cairo’s American University in Cairo. This text is referring to the hardcover edition.

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