Emanations Vol. 8

The eighth volume of the critically acclaimed Emanations literary anthology series, Octo-Emanations , includes a new Penny Turin story by Bill Ectric, “The Psychogeography of the Gnostic Phalanx Society.” The book also contains stunning new art, illustrations, and writing from around the world. The forty-two contributors represent South Korea, Canada, India, Oman, Kenya, Nepal, France, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Kosovo, Spain, the Philippines, Sweden, Japan, and the United States. Comprising a broad range of perspectives, this edition also includes a special new section featuring visual fine arts pieces with artists’ statements, making it one of the most exciting projects of the International Authors publishing house to date.

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Bill Ectric, Gary Westfahl, and others appear in an Iranian documentary called No Heaven For Gunga Din, written, directed, and produced by filmmaker Seyed Gholamreza Nematpour.

Bill Ectric
Gary Westfahl

Stay tuned for more…

Shedding More Light

Some time ago, I wrote about my wish to learn more about Ali Mirdrekvandi, whom I first heard about from Gary Westfahland several people got into the discussion. A few days ago, someone with a website called ShahreFarang dropped in to Bill Ectric’s Place to post this link about Mirdrekvandi from the Encyclopaedia Iranica.

The creators of ShahreFarang.com tell us, “Shahre Farang is the Iranian version of peep boxes, a form of entertainment provided by wandering showmen. Shahre Farang were made of metal in the shape of an oriental castle with several holes. ShahreFarang.com is hoping to bring you visual treats. It is the brain child of two Iranian designers & culture vultures, Mehrdad Aref-Adib & Surena Parham.”

I also read that ShahraFarang translates to “chequered-world” in the Farsi language. Reminds me of a quote from Omar Khayyam, which I seem to recall was ripped-off by William S. Burroughs in one of his cut-up books, “Tis all a checker-board of nights and days/ Where destiny with men for pieces plays / Hither and thither moves, and mates and slays / And one by one back in the closet lays.”

Deep.

Meta Mystery or Zoroastrian Scholarship?

I first saw the name on Gary Westfahl’s vast science fiction reference and biographical site, World of Westfahl. But, does Westfahl know more than he is telling? Is Ali Mirdrekvandi really the name of a self-educated Iranian author of a 1965 book called No Heaven for Gunga Din, or a pseudonym for another writer?

The full title of the 128 page book is No Heaven For Gunga Din: Consisting of the British and American Officer’s Book. Verandah Books calls it a “Much-praised comic fable written for the amusement of officers in the mess at Teheran by a Persian servant.” Amazon.com calls the book, “A kind of Pilgrim’s Progress in which a group of officers wander about the firmament in search of Heaven.”

Someone called Phloighd included No Heaven For Gunga Din in a list of books “that made me think, or laugh, in a quasi-meaningful way…” and adds, “(I) think this was some sort of minor cult hit in the 60s. Blurb has Peter Sellers saying “it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read.”

The most complete and helpful summary of the book, albeit the least flattering, is by Gregory Tidwell on Omphalo Book Reviews. Tidwell, who gives the book two out of five stars, nevertheless gives the author credit for his intention, saying, “In order to put this novella . . . into perspective, its probably important to know what Kipling was trying to do with his poem Gunga Din . . . Despite the sacrifice made by Gunga Din in Kipling’s poem, he is treated as a sub-human because he was not British or caucasian. No Heaven for Gunga Din essentially relies on the same notions of racial superiority, and is told in the pidgin English of its title character. The (dead) officers go through (the Milky Way) in their search for Heaven acting exactly as if they were still men of power back on Earth. They take offense easily, they have no sensitivity to others, they are aggressive, bossy, solipsistic, and they treat Gunga Din, who is journeying to Heaven with them, as the slave they had on Earth as if they expect his reward to be an eternity of service to them.”

Larry Weissmann, posting on the Book People Archive, says, “It’s a wonderful little parable and I’d recommend it.  However, even though I’m no linguist, the writing style doesn’t fit at all with the way the putative author (Mirdrekvandi) is described in the forward (by “Zaehner”) or intro (by “Hemming”).  My own thought is that all three names are fictitious, and the whole a beautifully done put-on.”

Some booksellers list John Hemming as the author of No Heaven For Gunga Din, but most of them list Ali Mirdrekvandi as the author and credit the Introduction to John Hemming. Most of them list a Forward by R. C. Zaehner.

I found a PDF file on JSTOR called Zoroastrian Survivals In Iranian Folklore II  by R. C. Zaehner, University of Oxford. In the Introduction to Zaehner’s paper, a Philip G. Kreyenbroek, University of London, makes reference to a J.F.B. Hemming, who was in possession of a long epic story called Irradiant, which was written by – guess who – Ali Mirdrekvandi!

To be continued . . . I hope . . .