The Performing Arts in Medieval Islam: Shadow Play and Popular Poetry in Ihn Daniyal's Manduk Cairo. By Li Guo. Islamic History and Civilization. vol. 93. Leiden: BRILL, 2012. Pp. xiii + 240. $136.
Born in Mosul, Mubammad ibn Daniyal (d. 710/1310) ended up in Cairo during the reign of the Mamliik sultan Baybars, having fled from the Mongols in 660/1261 as a boy of some twelve years. He was trained as an eye doctor but became famous as a poet and wit, enjoying the patronage of several sultans. In Arabic literary history his fame rests above all on three "shadow plays," being the only instances of this genre, indeed the only premodern Arabic texts that can properly be called "dramatic."Serious study began a little over a century ago by Georg Jacob, followed by Paul Kahle and several others. A study and edition by Ibrahim Hamadah (Cairo, 1963) is woefully inadequate, not least because it is severely bowdlerized. Kahle's unexpurgated text was published posthumously by Derek Hopwood and Mustafa Badawi in 1992, but a satisfactory edition is still lacking (see reviews by S. Moreh in Welt des Islams 34 : 126-29, and E. Rowson in JAOS 114 ; 462-66; Amal Eqeiq's entry on Ibn Daniyal in Essays in Arabic Literary Biography, 925-1350 [Wiesbaden, 2011, pp. 142-45] incorrectly claims that this edition includes a translation).
Li Guo's very welcome book is the first full monograph in English on this interesting character and his works (Francesca M. Corrao's 11 riso, ii cotnico e la festa al Cairo nel XII secolo appeared in 1996). As he says, it is an interdisciplinary study involving cultural history, biography, and literary criticism. It is divided into three parts, the first (pp. 1-100) being a biography of Ibn Daniyal, his life presented as a play in three acts: I. Eye Doctor and Street Buffoon; II. Court Panegyrist and Jester; III. Satirist and Shadow Playwright. The main source for his life is Ibn Diiniyal's oeuvre itself, and Guo produces a vivid portrait of him and his times. Part two (pp. 101-51) discusses his place in the history of Arabic literature and the genre of the shadow play; and part three (pp. 153-220) presents the translation (the first in English) of one of the three plays, al-Khayal ("The Phantom"). Manuscripts and sources are listed in two appendixes.
It appears from Guo's study that the composition of the three shadow plays was a protracted and complex process; they recycled many poems composed earlier, sometimes in revised form. Almost all the poetry, like the prose, is in fu, v/ta, even though some colloquial elements turn up; only two poems in the shadow plays are vernacular. Guo takes particular care to point out allusions, instances of paronomasia, double entendre, and other figures of speech, not only in the chapter "The Ornament of the Poetry" (pp. 131-43) but throughout. Tawriya (double entendre) and finds (paronomasia) are so common that Guo adds many notes to his translation, where their occurrence is simply indicated with the abbreviations (t) and (j). There are occasional errors: he confuses tibaq (using two antonyms) with muqabala, a figure involving two sets of antonyms; see pp. 38, 61, 141f. He fails to explain the punning with the words WI and /Jan (p. 131: not only "idle" and "my situation" but also...