Gül u Nevruz, An Early 15th–century Eastern Turkic Mathnawi Written by Lutfi
(45th Meeting of the PIAC, Budapest 2002)
Lutfi was one of the most outstanding poets to write in Eastern Turkic prior to Mir Ali Shir Nevai. Beside a well renowned Divan, he also produced an excellent mathnawi, i.e. an epic entitled Gül u Nevruz.
Most of the very few details about his life we have at our disposal can be found in Nevai’s Majalis al-nafa’is, a collection of biographies of poets. Neither do we have an autographic manuscript of the epic, which, together with the scarcity and ambiguity of the relevant sources, has led many a scholar to conclude that the author of Gül u Nevruz might not in fact have been Lutfi, but one of his contemporaries, Haydar Hvarizmi. According to the sceptics, the assumption that the author is Lutfi mainly derives from two Eastern Turkic-Persian lexicographic works of a later date, the Abushqa and the Sanglakh, both being full of mistakes, whereas other sources, even when touching on Lutfi, do not mention Gül u Nevruz, and when touching on Gül u Nwevruz, do not mention Lutfi.
The work itself is in fact an adaptation of a well-known Middle Eastern topic. Prior to Lutfi’s (if he was the author), there are two 14th-century Persian versions written by Khvaju-yi Kermani and Jalal Tabibi, respectively. There are, however, other Turkish Gül u Nevruzes, too. Muidi and Molla Saqi are both assigned one, and in the relevant literature we encounter — although without any reference — the name of a certain Zehiri, who served as the defterdar of Bayezid II. This is the title of the mathnawi of another Ottoman poet from the 17th century, Sabir, a fragment of whose work can be found in the Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul. There is yet another, unfortunately anonymous, Eastern Turkic epic bearing the same title dated 1498/99, which is, alongside with a manuscript of the reputed Lutfi work, preserved in the Oriental Manuscript Collection of the Hungarian National Academy.
In my proposed lecture I would like to explain shortly the Timurid era as a literary background against which Lutfi may have written his work, then, relying on the sources, I would make an attempt at reconstructing his biography. Outlining in the second part the debate about the authorship of Gül u Nevruz, finally I would endeavour to shed light on the different elaborations of Gül u Nevruz as a literary topic.