Names of the Lion
Names of the Lion
By Ibn Khālawayh, Translated by David Larsen
Winner of the 2018 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets
Poet and scholar David Larsen’s English translation of the late 10th century Arabic lexicographer Ibn Khālawayh’s list of names of lions. Essentially a book of translation about translation, this unique work engages medieval linguistic scholarship with precision and clarity. Larsen's lively introduction, notes, and the 400 epithets are an engrossing work of cultural studies.
In this remarkable work of translation and discovery David Larsen makes available to us what we can now read as a powerful old/new act of poetic naming. Not composed as poetry in the familiar sense, Ibn Khalawayh’s Names of the Lion comes alive today as a further example of Emerson’s definition of the poet as “namer and language-maker.” Larsen’s careful and groundbreaking translation, presented here in its entirety, is well worth a reading and celebration as an instance of pre-modern assemblage brought into the framework of a new poetics.A fascinating volume. Everything in these pages emerges from the 350 names attributed to the mythologised creature of the lion. Through the careful, obsessively detailed index, and alongside the retelling of Arabic grammarians’ arguments, arises a fascinating account of the lavish and important workings of nominal attribution. It’s all in a name, all in a grain of sand, all in a snowflake, all in a mane.
Larsen’s lyrical rendering of each name, based on extensive research into its etymological and cultural roots, does justice to its lexicographically-meticulous source, while at the same time creating something entirely new... The names of the lion, obsessively enumerated, become a poetic meditation on language’s exuberant attempts to convey the ineffable. Yet through its five hundred epithets, the creature itself does begin to take shape and the reader comes face to face with the lion: so glorious in myth, so awful in reality.
Phoebe Carter, Kenyon Review
A mystifying and delightful treatise that conveys, as few other texts do, the voluminousness of the classical Arabic language and its poetic resources. Its author was a literary celebrity during a period crowded with savants, and his idiosyncratic genius is on full display in this astonishingly erudite but wonderfully readable book.
A huge piece of labor, and utterly fascinating. . . . If you can, it is well worth getting hold of Wave Books’s lovely paperback editions of The Names of the Lion, as an aesthetically beautiful book, an entrancing piece of literature, and an intriguing, even for the non-specialist, work of scholarship.As with Gertrude Stein’s insight cited elsewhere, a poetry of names emerges, even & sometimes most powerfully in forms & genres not associated with poetry as such…an indication of how far our own practice has come in the extension of what we identify or read as poetry.
David Larsen is a U. S. poet and literary translator of Classical Arabic texts. His graduate studies in Comparative Literature ran parallel to years of activity in the San Francisco Bay Area’s experimental poetry community, culminating in a verse collection The Thorn (Cambridge, MA: Faux Press, 2005) and two and a half years as curator of the New Yipes video and poetry series. During the 2011 uprising in Egypt he was a Fulbright Scholar based in Cairo. David Larsen has taught at U. C. Berkeley, Yale and Ohio State, and is currently a Clinical Professor of Liberal Studies at NYU.
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
ISBN# 9781940696478 (7x9.5 72pp, paperback)