I'm reading online Salah Saadalla's translation of the Kurdish classic Mem and Zin. The early chapters aren't part of the main story: two chapters addressed to God, two to the prophet Mohammed, two about the Kurdish nation, and then a prologue. But even these contain some interesting content and references. Chapter 5, "Our plight", is clearly (at least for those who know some of the history of that part of the world) all about the state of the Kurdish people, although this isn't said explicitly until halfway through. An early passage of this chapter goes as follows:

Our retreat is complete
Is it now likely to cease

Or will it go on further
Until we all wither?

This follows a request for a glass to be filled with wine (presumably part of the oral tradition that this story originally was) and is followed by lengthy musing on the possibilities that might be available to the Kurdish people if they had a recognised nation and leader. But these two stanzas in particular interest me, as they seem to suggest a particularly low point for the Kurds: their "retreat" being "complete", with the possibility of their retreat either stopping or continuing until they all "wither".

How does this fit with Kurdish cultural history? Was the story created at a time when the Kurdish people, besieged from all sides as this chapter describes, were at a particularly low point and in danger of extinction?


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