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The Canticle of the Birds by 'Attâr,' or the Art of Spiritual flight

Sunday, August 23rd at 3:30pm 20 months ago
Harbourfront Centre, Miss Lou's Room 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON
Leili Anvar and Frédéric Ferney read passages from "The Canticle of the Birds by ‘Attâr’" (in English with passages of the original Persian text) accompanied by a Persian musician, playing the parts of the hoopoe and of different birds, dervishes, sages, fools, and princesses, telling stories sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, always meaningful, they invite the audience to enter the poetic world of ‘Attâr and to embark on the journey of love and wisdom.

Ardently yearning to find their monarch, all the world’s birds gather in sonorous assembly. Guided by the hoopoe, the messenger of Solomon, the birds take wing towards the Sîmorgh, the Divine Being, who dwells on the heights of mythical Mount Qâf, on the edge of the horizon of the rising Sun. Only the hoopoe knows how long and arduous the journey will be. The birds will have to cross seven valleys, first that of the Quest, then those of Love, of Insight into Mystery, of Detachment and Serenity, of Unity, of Awe, and lastly of Poverty and Nothingness, to reach at length the Royal Throne. At first each bird, still prisoner to earthly ties, hesitates to take wing. So the hoopoe tells each bird a parable, a tale within a tale urging each winged creature to cast aside its worldly goods, loves and certainties, to give up its ego in order to undertake the journey. For at the end of the path rises the Sun-like Beloved Being.

This performance was created in English version for the Sufi Festival of Jodhpur and Nagaur 2015.

Former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Leili Anvar holds a PhD in Persian literarture. She is junior professor at the Institut des Langues et des Civilsations Orientales. Her interest in the cultural expressions of mystical inspiration is manifold. As a specialist of Persian mystical literature she has been translating Rûmî, Shams-e Tabrizi, ‘Attâr, Nezâmî and more modern writers, but she also braodcasts a weekly programme on spiritual issues at the radio (France Culture). She is also a poetic performer, designing and participating in poetic recitals of mystic poetry accompanied by various musicians in different contexts (Festivals of Sacred Musics –Fès, Grasse, Perpignan- Avignon, UNESCO, Théâtre de la Ville, Théâtre d’Antibes). Her publications, besides academic articles, include Rûmî (Entrelacs, 2004), Orient, Mille ans de poésie et de peinture (Éditions Diane de Selliers, 2005), Rûmî, la Religion de l'Amour (Seuil, 2011). She has also published a new translation in verse of the Canticle of the Birds (Editions Diane de Selliers, 2012, new edition 2014) and the first French translation of a selection the spiritual teachings of Ostad Elahi, Paroles de Vérité, Albin Michel, 2014.

Frédéric Ferney is a writer and a literary critic, currently working as a chronicler for the French press (La Revue-Jeune Afrique) and the radio (BBC World Service, France-Culture). He majored in English literature and trained as an actor in Rome at the Scuola di Mimo e di Spettacolo. After having taught in Africa, Rome and Paris University (Paris VIII-Vincennes), he worked for several newspapers, notably as a chief editor of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur (cultural section) and as a theatre critic in the French daily Le Figaro. He hosted a famous program on books on the public television channel France 5. He regularly performs (with Leili Anvar) in poetic recitals ranging from modern French poetry to Persian sûfi poem or the Song of Songs. He has played in various theatre festivals (Avignon, Fès). He lately published in French an essay on the issues of contemporary literary criticism and a revisited biography of Winston Churchill.
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