An Erudite Man of Letters

It is not easy to summarize the life's work of a prolific scholar such as the late professor Mohammad Dja`far Mahdjoub who was considered by his peers to be an authority on a number of different but related literary fields. Whether writing for scholarly journals, translating Arabic literary works into Persian, doing research in the field of Persian classical literature, or editing and annotating old Persian manuscripts, he aimed at perfection. However, it was in the area of Persian folklore and popular culture that he was recognized as the foremost authority. Indeed, he led the way for the recognition, by the academia, of Persian folklore as one of the major branches of Persian literary tradition and scholarship.

Mahdjoub's doctoral dissertation on "The Khorasani Style in Persian Poetry," which was published in 1966, was the first serious work on the subject. His later collaboration with the renowned literary quarterly Sokhan, as a writer and literary critic, lasted for many years during which time he also published a number of his translations of a number of French and English novels.

His major editorial works include the annotated versions of Kalilah va Demnah and Vis va Ramin which is perhaps the oldest and the most sensual love story in Persian poetry. Farhang-e Loghat va Estelahat-e `Amiyaneh [Dictionary of Vernacular Terms and Expressions], in collaboration with Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, and Afarin Ferdowsi [Praise Ferdowsi], a collection of articles about the stories of the great Persian epic, are among his many monograms published in the earlier part of his prolific scholarship.

It was, however, in his search for the lost art of naqqali [story-telling] and folkloric traditions that Mahdjoub made his greatest scholarly contribution to the field of Persian literature. With the publication of a new version of Amir Arsalan-e Namdar, which included comprehensive introduction and extensive explanatory notes, Mahdjoub unveiled the unknown author, origins and sources of this ancient fable to its avid readers.

Shahrokh Meskoob
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