Orientalist in dervish clothes

Ármin Vámbéry in dervish clothes, after his return from his Central Asian journey,
photographed in a London studio

Four years ago we were only able to illustrate with this photo the post devoted to Mullah Ishak, the young theologian of Khiva, who became a disciple of Ármin Vámbéry when this latter traveled about Central Asia in dervish guise. So much that when Vámbéry exposed himself in Constantinople, Ishak also followed him to the infidel Frengistan, and became librarian of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He died in Hungary, and his tomb in the rural cemetery of Velence became a kind of a secret pilgrimage site for Hungarian orientalists.

Just recently we found in the 1864/3 issue of the magazine Az Ország Tükre (The Mirror of the Country) the lithography made shortly after their arrival at Pest, which also represents the Mullah next to Vámbéry sitting in dervish clothes. His lively bright eyes cheerfully counterpoint Vámbéry’s grave pose, reflecting his enterprising spirit, and explaining why Vámbéry addressed the letter written to him to that rascal Tatar Mullah.

It is not by accident that the magazine was found just now. Three years ago, when I presented our webpage on the greatest Hungarian Iranologist, Sándor Kégl – you remember, the man with the cat –, composed from the material of the Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, after the presentation I was asked: once we systematically presented the legacies of the greatest Hungarian travelers in the East, Ibrahim Müteferrika, Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, Aurél Stein, Sándor Kégl, Dávid Kaufmann – see the full list here –, when are we going to turn to the scholar, who is perhaps the internationally best known among them, due to his amazing gift for languages and especially to his many faces. Now is the time for this.

Tomorrow will be the centenary of the death of Ármin Vámbéry, the poor Jewish private tutor and renowned university professor, dervish and diplomat, a personal friend of the Turkish Sultan, the Persian Shah and the British Prime Minister, the founder of Hungarian Oriental research. Tomorrow at five o’clock, at the international conference held in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences we will present the website prepared from his legacy preserved in the Oriental Collection, which illustrates if not all, at least a dozen of his many faces. After the presentation we will also publish the link here, and then I will also devote some special posts to the material included and not included in the site. Come, listen, and look back.

6 comentarios:

MOCKBA dijo...

I loved your previous cemetery pligrimage story, and I still can't believe that you didn't have more pages devoted to Vambery before! Vambery's breathtaking ethnographic quest awed me as a child; alas, I suspect that few people, perhaps few outside Hungary, know anything one of all time's most amazing linguists, anthropologists, and adventurers. Looking forward to your series!

(Alas, I understand that it doesn't make mine any closer to reality)

Catherine dijo...

You shouldn't be so pessimistic, I was surprised to find how many people around me in Paris, far from Budapest, knew Vambery — of course, most of them are frequent travelers in Orient. And yes, Vambery was such a fascinating character…

Araz dijo...

Thanks for continuing to share these with us, Studiolum. I certainly look forward for the website link. And this letter is of great interest to me... it is so fascinating to be able to read and understand what was written centuries ago... but I did not completely grasp its meaning. Most confusing is that it starts with several diminutive words... and I like VA sign with crescent and star - this type looks like traditional to Hungary?

Studiolum dijo...

No, I think it was the invention of Vámbéry himself, and it was also his design that went over to Mollah Ishak’s tomb. Don’t forget that until the late 18th century the Ottoman Empire was still an enemy, so their emblem was certainly not used in Hungary.

Due to a large number of contributions (5 whole studies, to be precise, and long ones), received, as usual, in the last week before the presentation, at the moment only the Hungarian version of the webpage is complete: vambery.mtak.hu. You can switch for the English version, but going beyond the opening page you will see the disclaim that it will be opened only in the next week, after the translation of the latecomers.

Araz dijo...

I certainly remember Hungarian tribal flag with a crescent and star, but this can be something introduced later maybe. I will search for it... And the letter... do you have a translation of it?

MOCKBA dijo...

A beautifully designed site!

Here is the 1925 Vambery bio I read through and through as a child. Just last night I was reciting its tales about Yakub-khan and the frengi, and about the clueless Swedish traveller and the power of dervish's word:

- Я дервиш, сударь, и не более того. Но я знаю все языки мира.
И он прочел шведу два стиха из саги о Фритьофе. Швед отскочил от него в ужасе. — Видишь теперь, — сказал Вамбери узбеку, — Аллах дает дервишам великую власть слова.

Appropriately for Poesia del Rio Wang theme, the author of "Vambery", Nikolay Tikonov, is much better known as a poet and and a translator of poetry, and his most beloved book, "Twelve Ballads", was published in the same 1925. That's the one with
Гвозди б делать из этих людей:
Крепче б не было в мире гвоздей