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The "'Ali ibn al-Shah" Preface to "Kalila and Dimna" between Persian and Arabic
"Kalila and Dimna" was a famous book in every major literary tradition of the medieval and early modern Near East. Several different versions of the text were produced, for example, in *each* of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. One of the curiosities of "Kalila and Dimna" is that it remained so current, and new translations and adaptations appeared with such regularity, that the lines of influence among languages and literary traditions cannot be viewed as unidirectional. The Arabic version attributed to Ibn al-Muqaffa' (d. ca. 139/757) inspired translations in Persian, which achieved sufficient fame in their own right that at least one of them was subsequently re-adapted in Arabic. The Persian "Kalila and Dimna" tradition -- especially the "Anvar-i suhayli" of Husayn Va'iz Kashifi (d. 910/1504-5) -- also became the basis for translations into Ottoman Turkish from the tenth/sixteenth century. It is not always straightforward to identify the origins of various passages that were added to "Kalila and Dimna" over the generations. Material was being shared continuously, the text ever in flux; and there are long periods for which we lack extant manuscript witnesses. Perhaps the quintessential example of this problem is the so-called "'Ali ibn al-Shah" preface to "Kalila and Dimna" -- a passage that appears in some Arabic manuscripts, as well as in a Persian versification of the fables by Qani'i Tusi (mid seventh/thirteenth century). My aim in this paper is to review the surviving evidence relating to the transmission of the "'Ali ibn al-Shah" preface in a more comprehensive manner than has been attempted to date. Studying different manifestations of this passage from the seventh/thirteenth and eighth/fourteenth centuries -- the period in which it seems to emerge -- does support the idea of a generally Iranian or Persianate origin. It is more difficult, however, to posit a Persian text that was at some point translated into Arabic. As far as can be determined from extant manuscripts, the "'Ali ibn al-Shah" material appeared effectively simultaneously in the two languages.
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