If Feb 1 Was Robinson Crusoe Day, then Feb 2 Must Be Hayy ibn Yaqzan Day…Right?

via Arab Literature (in English):

by mlynxqualey

The first of February apparently was Robinson Crusoe Day, with a plethora of activities, books, lesson plans and more being offered around the Internet, for readers small and not-so-small. It’s Feb 1 because that’s the day Alexander Selkirk — who may have been a key inspiration for Robinson Crusoe — was apparently rescued from the island of Juan Fernandez. Certainly, there are other possible models, among them a narrative by Ibn Tufayl that was “a sensation among intellectuals in Daniel Defoe’s day“:

Nearly eleven years back, on the occasion of Ibn Tufayl’s narrative being adapted for childrenMartin Wainwright argued that “Tufayl’s footprints mark the great classic”, Robinson Crusoe.

That may be. But whether or no the 12th-century Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, son of Awake) influenced Defoe’s 1719 desert-island novel, the Andalusia-born philosopher’s work is interesting on its own two feet.

The narrative tells the story of an orphaned boy, Hayy, who is raised in the wild by a gazelle, and how he comes to grips with human reason and human society. Some call it a philosophical narrative, some a coming-of-age novel, some a compendium of Islamic science, some proto-science fiction. The narrative has inspired numerous adaptations; in addition to the one in 2003, in 2011 Iranian-American director Mohammad Ghaffari adapted it to the stage, also apparently suited for children, as it continued in Minneapolis’s Children’s Theatre Company.

Hayy ibn Yaqzan was also re-translated by Lenn E. Goodman and published in 2003.

An open-source version of Hayy ibn Yaqzan’s original English translation, by Simon Ockley, pub. 1708. Not exactly suited to the modern reader, but: Via the Gutenberg project

P.S. by P.J.:In volume 4 of Poems for the Millennium (The UC Book of North African Literature) I used extracts from the excellent  translation with an introduction & notes by Lenn Evan Goodman from Chicago University Press:


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Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris is a poet, translator, essayist & anthologist who has published more than 50 books, most recently, Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj (poems) from Chax Press and The University of California Book of North African Literature (volume 4 in the Poems for the Millennium series), coedited with Habib Tengour. Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader edited & translated by Joris, and Pierre Joris: Cartographies of the In-between, essays on Joris’ work edited by Peter Cockelbergh, came out in 2012. Forthcoming are Barzakh — Poems 2000-2012 (Black Widow Press) & Breathturn Into Timestead:The Collected Later Poems of Paul Celan (FSG).

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