Graduation, early career and moves here and there made that my friend Atéka and I had not seen each other since our student years in Paris.
It is on the occasion of a stay in Istanbul that we have been able to meet again and remake the world over a kahvalti. Given that I was in search of a reading off the beaten track, I shared with her my desire for literary renewal and she kindly offered to bring me a book from France.
It is therefore thanks to her that I discovered The conference of the birds by Farîd-Ud-Din ‘Attar, a Persian writer of the twentieth century.
As former perfumer who left his lucrative activity to get closer to Sufism and Mysticism, Attar wrote – among other things – this long poem that depicts birds allegorically representing people, confronted with the moral questions of life throughout their quest for spirituality.
These different fragments have sometimes made me think of Thoughts by Blaise Pascal in their brevity – although it is deliberate in Attar’s style but not in Pascal’s one – makes the various philosophical and spiritual messages even more incisive and impactful for the reader.
Moreover, although some theological knowledge is needed to re-situate some of the religious figures to which Attar alludes in this account, many of the conveyed messages are universal and soothing as they echo the realities of modern life, even centuries after their writing.
Kahvalti: Turkish breakfast