Bahiyyih Nakhjavani’s poetic prose is a continuation of the Persian tradition of using lush, mystical imagery to awaken the soul. We hope you will join us as we take a journey inward with The Saddlebag.
This was the third reading of Readers Underground (then #litgeeks). The conversation continues in our forum.
The Book We’re Reading
“The Uigur’s eyes were bright and keen, but he had difficulty reading the fine script on that delicate paper. The noonday sun was beating down on the page and it blazed before him, blinding him momentarily. He could hardly make it out. It was written as if at a great speed, without the dots. And yet it seemed to be one enigmatic dot. The words ran into one another, equivocal. They told him the path is straight and the way is narrow even while it is more spacious than the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. It told him that the primal point was the beginning and the end; the centre and the circumference of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He did not understand.”First published in 2001, The Saddlebag by Iranian-British author Bahiyyih Nakhjavani is one story that is nine stories, nine stories that are one story. Nine characters encounter each other and the contents of mysterious saddlebag on Pilgrimage to the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. A contemporary Canterbury Tales, each story resonates with joy, sorrow, life, death, and the ever changing face of the Divine. The Thief, the Bride, the Chieftain, the Moneychanger, the Slave, the Pilgrim, the Priest, the Dervish, and the Corpse. These nine souls—different races, stations, religions and backgrounds—gravitate, unbeknownst to them, towards a single, primal point.
In this hangout we discuss (primarily) “The Thief” vignette, meaning and symbolism in the The Saddlebag, consciousness studies, Henry Corbin and the Illuminationist school (think: angels), Zoroastrianism, Babism, and The Bahai Faith.