Siraj al-Tawarikh to be released in English

Apparently this year is the year of Siraj al-Tawarikh, the monumental Afghan history book by Faiz Mohammad Kateb. There are two good news about the book: according to Reza Kateb, a grandson of the author, the English translation of the first three volumes of Siraj is going to be released this year by a publisher in Holland (maybe Brill). The translator, R. D. McChesney, is a retired New York University professor, who has already published the English translation of Tazakkor ul-Inqelab, which is Kateb’s dairy during Bacha-e Saqaw’s 1929 uprising in Kabul.

The other good news is the publication of the forth volume of Siraj in Kabul. This volume, which was long thought to be lost, was acquired by the government from Wasim Amiri, a Kabuli bookseller (for $ 50,000) who bought it from someone he doesn’t want to reveal his name. Now the original manuscript is preserved in the National Achieves in Kabul. The bookseller sold only the manuscript and reserved the rights of its publication. He has recently released it in four massive volumes, which chronicles the reign of Amir Habibulla (1901-1919).

Siraj is not only the best source on Afghanistan’s political history, but on its social and cultural history as well. I believe with Siraj in English, you may have to unread some of the stuff you have already read about Afghanistan. I’ve heard Mr. McChesney has already started to translate the forth volume too.

Mr. McChesney in his introduction to Siraj writes: “without question, the millions of words that Fayz Muhammad wrote to memorialize and bring to future generations a comprehensive picture of the political and socio-religious history of Afghanistan in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries are unparalleled in the written history of Afghanistan. Although he has been called “the modern Bayhaqi,” in reference to the latter’s enormous, though mostly non-extant, thirty-volume history, perhaps Bayhaqi should be thought of as the medieval Fayz Muhammad.”

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