Eric Ormsby

Eastern Reflections

Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene

By Hamid Dabashi

Harvard University Press 285pp £25.95 order from our bookshop

In Book XI of his Fables, Jean de La Fontaine introduces a curious tale, at once exotic and intimate. It tells of a Mughal who has a dream in which he sees a powerful vizier basking in the bliss of paradise while below him a seemingly pious hermit is roasting in the flames of hell. He consults a dream interpreter, who explains that the vizier, though worldly, had all his life sought out solitude and seclusion, presumably for spiritual meditation; the hermit, by contrast, had constantly sought out the company of royal courtiers and fawned on them. La Fontaine moves from this parable to an encomium on the virtues of solitude, in which he himself has always discovered ‘une douceur secrète’. His tribute to seclusion is quite personal; it is in fact one of the rare confidences about himself that La Fontaine imparts to the reader in the course of the Fables.

Subscribe to read the full article



Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A mad earl, a rapacious lawyer, Lord Byron and some bizarre things in bed: Miranda Seymour on a Georgian scandal ,
    • Gideon Rachman charts the migration of power from West to East. How, asks Michael Burleigh, will the USA respond? ,
    • ‘Not everyone knows what it is to have your father’s rival’s penis inches from your nose’. Ian McEwan in a Nutshell ,
    • RT : I've got approx. 100 copies of from early 1990s-2000s to give away (most w/ covers).… ,
    • 'I Contain Multitudes is popular science writing at its best.' Wendy Moore is fascinated by a study on microbes ,
    • 'Costume of the life force? Words fail.' Germaine Greer on an ode to the condom ,
    • It's Write on Kew for the next four days. There are free copies of Literary Review about; why not dip your toe into the magazine?,