“Jirinecka”: Part 3 of 4

What is going on with this succubus figure? Maybe you can figure it out for yourself through this translation (no promises!). I’m continuing to work on the haunting story “Jirinecka” by Bozorg Alavi, but I didn’t start at the beginning with my first post about it. So despite being titled Part 3 of 4, this is really the first two pages of the story. When I finish it, I will put all the pieces together in proper order. However, it doesn’t matter too much what order you read them in, since the story is full of internal inconsistencies and repetitions. But those inconsistencies are not simply self-obsessed flourishes, repetition for the sake of repetition, but rather show the narrator’s unstable state of mind and uncertainty about the whole affair he describes.

Alavi includes a nine-line excerpt from, as he mentions, the Haft Peykar (Seven Beauties) of Nezami Ganjavi (12th Century). Written in epic couplets, the work tells the story of Shah Bahram, a prince who travels in search of the perfect princess through the world’s seven climes, each represented by a different color, day of the week, and astrological sign as in the ancient Zoroastrian tradition. The excerpt taken by Alavi details Shah Bahram’s entrance into Khavarneq Castle, where he first sees the portraits of each of the seven lovely princesses and makes up his mind to take them as his brides. There can be no doubt that Alavi continually refers to the “blackness” of Jirina in order to link her with Nezami’s princess of the black clime. A full translation of the poem can be found on the amazing PHI Persian Literature in Translation website under the author “Niẓāmī”Ganjavī, Jamāl al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad Ilyās: http://persian.packhum.org/persian/main.

I know nothing about her except for this name. Her colorless blackness remains. I’m not even sure I got her name right. When I asked her her name, she said, “Jirina.”

When she talked about herself,  I realized the others called her that, but I called her Jirinecka in that singular yet duplicitous world we mixed in and the ill-omened lands in which our spirits hovered. Was it last night or a month ago? Or a few years ago? What was it? A slippery, dispersed, fragmented, loosely-defined shadow writhes before my eyes. When I reach out my hand to grab this formless vision, from the tips of my fingers, to my elbows and temples, to the marrow of my bones, my entire body blazes. A murderous pain tortures my soul. I’m breathing hard. I shake myself and think what happened. What had even happened? What was left for me? Nothing!

That night was just like any other night. I spent that night like any other, tormented by sleeplessness. Maybe I was suffering from a high fever. Ever since the next morning til this very day, Jirinecka’s name has been floating in the boundless ocean of my limited mind, and how ever much I want to capture the owner of that name, it’s in vain. The only positive thing I have in my hand is that very name — Jirinecka — and a Russian poem I never knew before:

I loved you and I kissed you

But you laughed at me.

O black eyes,

Look at the state you’ve cast me into!

I didn’t know this poem. I’d never known any Russian poems. I don’t know where I learned it. But it’s connected to Jirinecka somehow. Who was she?

She suddenly appeared in my life. She was with me for a few moments and then vanished. Where she came from, I don’t know; where she went, I don’t know; when she was with me, I don’t know.

Was she Polish? Maybe. Did she go to South Africa? Maybe. Did they throw her in jail? It’s possible. Was she dead? No… Jirinecka was a formless spirit. One of those things people see in dreams, during a high fever, or in the haze between sleep and wakefulness. There are a lot of them around. We see them at normal times, but we don’t recognize them. They show themselves to us but don’t make themselves known.

It was July. Even my sweat was boiling. Two roosters from two different places burst into song. One of them was later than the other. It was calling to its friend with its lower voice. The more modest one answered, albeit even more pompously. By the window, several small sparrows were chirping. One of those horse-flies was buzzing and wildly flinging itself into the glass. I had lay down on the bed and was paging through Nezami’s Seven Beauties. I got to the part where Shah Bahram saw the seven beauties’ faces in the Khavareq Castle, and I was reading these lines:

Such is the rule of the seven stars: That when this world-seeker appears,

He takes aside seven princesses from seven climes, each like a unique pearl.

The charms of those seven beauties entered his heart, little by little.

Just like mares, stallions, and suns were the lion-hearted youth and his seven brides.

Should not desire to attain one’s wish increase? Should not the heart demand its pleasure?

When he left that chamber, he locked it and entrusted the key to his guard.

Once in a while when the Shah was drunk with love, he approached that door, key in hand.

He opened that door and entered heaven, saw those paintings, the beauties seven.

He stood like a thirsty man at water’s edge, and lost consciousness out of desire.

Had those lines occurred to me then? Was I really reading those poems that day, that hot summer day when I was panting from thirst? Supposing I am imagining it, what relation do those lines have to Jirinecka, the Polish girl? I’ve been ill for a while, this I know, but I like to think these discordant thoughts weren’t linked together for no reason.

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