Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2004 (12.3)
Page 23

Nizami Lives!


Left: Marissom Ricardo Roso who received the Destaque award in Sao Borja, Brazil, for translating Nizami's "Leyli and Majnun" into Brazilian Portuguese. He was honored at City Ball on September 20, 2004. His sister, Jacqueline Roso, a lawyer, celebrated the occasion with him.

Twelfth century Azerbaijani poet Nizami once wrote that he had never traveled beyond his hometown of Ganja, which is located in present-day northwestern Azerbaijan. However, that narrow perimeter hasn't kept Nizami's ageless literary works from being translated and traveling the world more than 800 years later. The latest journey takes him to São Borja in southern Brazil, close to the borders of Uruguay and Argentina. Recently, the translation of one of his most famous works "Leyli & Majnun" into Portuguese provided an excuse to bestow upon the translator one of the city's most coveted awards.

Each year, members of the Ivan Goulart Beneficent Society (Sociedade Beneficente Ivan Goulart) in São Borja identify outstanding citizens who have made unique contributions to the community and they honor them at the Highlight's Ball (Baile dos Destaques). Trophies are presented to individuals, who are identified for their contribution, competency, honesty, responsibility and integration of projects into the community. The awards are given to outstanding professionals, musicians, poets, artists, politicians, doctors, lawyers and others.

This year Marissom Ricardo Roso was among the 17 recipients of the Special Highlight Trophy (Destaque Especial) of the Priest Francisco Garsia Trophy. The award was presented on September 4, 2004. Marissom was honored for translating Nizami's "Leyli and Majnun" into Brazilian Portuguese. His translation is based on Colin Turnbull's English prose version from Persian. Nizami, whose mother tongue was Azeri, wrote in Persian, which was the literary language of the day. Marissom's Portuguese translation resulted in a 184-page book, which Zahar Press of Rio de Janeiro published in 2003.

Marissom himself is not a translator by profession. But like many other Brazilians, he loves Eric Clapton's music and was especially attracted to the popular song, "Leyla". When he discovered the lyrics were based on Nizami's poetry of "Leyli and Majnun", he found the English version and upon reading it, felt such a close affinity with the 800-year-old work that he wanted to make it available for Portuguese speakers. Nizami's story of "Leyli and Majnun" is often compared to Shakespeare's drama of Romeo and Juliet, though Nizami precedes the British bard by 400 years.

In his acceptance speech, Marissom quoted Nizami:
"The word, though new is, at the same time, old. The word, like the spirit, is a treasury of the riches of the invisible realm" (from Nizami's "Seven Beauties").

The Ivan Goulart Beneficent Society was founded in 1981 and is currently directed by Maria de Fátima Streck. Its goal is to provide assistance to poorer members of the community in maternity, pediatrics and the public health service related to the Ivan Goulart Hospital. The awards are given in memory of Francisco Garcia, the Jesuit priest, who founded the mission of São Francisco de Borja in the late 1600s.

Marissom is also a contributor to the local newspaper Folha de São Borja. The city, São Borja, though relatively small with a population only 68,000, is historically and politically revered as it gave Brazil two of its Presidents - Getúlio Vargas and João Goulart.

(1) Search Crazy About 'Layla': Eric Clapton's Song Inspired by Nizami, 12th century Azerbaijani Poet, Autumn 1998 (6.3).
(2) Search at Introduction and first chapter of Marissom's translation in Portuguese of Nizami's Leyli and Majnun.
(3) Marissom's translation in Portuguese: Laila & Majnun: A Classical Historia de Amor Da Literatura Persa by Nizami. Published by Jorge Zahar: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2003. ISBN 85-7110-688-6, soft bound, 184 pages.

From Azerbaijan International (12.3) Autumn 2004.
© Azerbaijan International 2004. All rights reserved.

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