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Faithful to its purpose

Paper: The Dreams of A Scribe - Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Bahíyyih Nakhjavání

Nakhjavani has subtitled her book 'The Dreams of a Scribe' and the work's structure and logic is profoundly dreamlike, sliding back and forth through recollection and prophecy as though the witness' testimony of events is written on loose leaves read in disarray. This device is appropriate, if not always perfectly applied, and the effect, though sometimes confusing, seems faithful to her purpose.

The unnamed Scribe's dreams, formed from classical Persian literary motifs, form a cycle which frame the undramatic events of a short, spiritually significant period of his life. The author uses the same classical symbolism liberally to season descriptions throughout the book, mixing them with modern sensibilities to subtle and alluring effect. Her narrative touch is light as a feather; much of the intriguing context passes through the book unexamined, questions are raised rather than answered, the human spirit and the universe retain their mystery, only seeming more profound and obscure as Nakhjavani delves into them.

At the end of the book, a selective chronology of paper making and use reveals the liberties her fiction has taken with events of recorded history, incorporating them, in the manner of a well-read scribe, into her own dream-like poem.

The hazy mood and narrative simplicity of this book might invite accusations of a lack of focus, and I sometimes felt my attention drifting when the strands became difficult to follow, but ultimately I feel that the effect is caused by a strict discipline; a careful synchronisation of structure and content, rendered with a very refined aesthetic sensibility.

"A scribe defines his faith on the empty page"