Sunday, June 04, 2017


Reading Gibbon Aloud

Robert Byron (1905-1941), The Road to Oxiana (London: Picador, 1994), pp. 61-62:
Teherani: 'What's this book?'

Christopher: 'A book of history.'

Teherani: 'What history?'

Christopher: 'The history of Rum and the countries near it, such as Persia, Egypt, Turkey, and Frankistan.'

Assistant (opening the book): 'Ya Ali! What characters!'

Teherani: 'Can you read it?'

Christopher: 'Of course. It's my language.'

Teherani: 'Read it to us.'

Christopher: 'But you cannot understand the language.'

Isfahani: 'No matter. Read a little.'

Muleteers: 'Go on! Go on!'

Christopher: '"It may occasion some surprise that the Roman pontiff should erect, in the heart of France, the tribunal from whence he hurled his anathemas against the king; but our surprise will vanish so soon as we form a just estimate of a king of France in the eleventh century."'

Teherani: 'What's that about?'

Christopher: 'About the Pope.'

Teherani: 'The Foof? Who's that?'

Christopher: 'The Caliph of Rum.'

Muleteer: 'It's history of the Caliph of Rum.'

Teherani: 'Shut up! Is it a new book?'

Assistant: 'Is it full of clean thoughts?'

Christopher: 'It is without religion. The man who wrote it did not believe in the prophets.'

Teherani: 'Did he believe in God?'

Christopher: 'Perhaps. But he despised the prophets. He said that Jesus was an ordinary man (general agreement) and that Mohammad was an ordinary man (general depression) and that Zoroaster was an ordinary man.'

Muleteer (who speaks Turkish and doesn't understand well): 'Was he called Zoroaster?'

Christopher: 'No, Gibbon.'

Chorus: 'Ghiboon! Ghiboon!'

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