(urth) 7AN: The Adventures of Hajji Baba

Dave Tallman davetallman at msn.com
Fri Oct 22 15:55:56 PDT 2010

James Morier's Hajji Baba of Ispahan, The Adventures of Hajji
Baba<http://hajji.netfirms.com/index.html>is a famous book that may be
a source Wolfe drew on for ideas and character
names in "Seven American Nights". This book was written in the 1800's and
details the picaresque adventures of Hajji Baba, a barber. It features
characters named the Mollah Nadan, Mirza Amak, and Osman Aga. Credit for
this find goes to JazzCat, a poster on http;//usefulphrases.yuku.com (It's
interesting that in this work the name Nadan is given to a religious leader,
a mullah).

According to Robert Borski's posting on urth.net:

    While seeming a plausible Arab name, "Nadan," in fact, is something you
    would be ill-mannered in calling anyone. In Farsi it means "stupid,
    therefore, by extension, the same thing that 'cretin' does.

With the discovery of "The Adventures of Hajji Baba" that claim about
Nadan's name is partially invalidated. In translation, "Hadjji Baba" is a
well-known work of Persian literature, and any name drawn from it would be a
reasonable name for a child. In the printed text of the English version of
the book (available online through Google books), the name shows up as
"Molah Nadân". According to
http://www.khamush.com/persian/rubaie236.htm, "Nadân-ám" means
"I cannot."

I'm becoming convinced that Wolfe read this book as part of his background
research for the story and picked that name deliberately. Molah Nadan
changes clothing with the narrator and ends up being punished for a crime in
his place. A Christ figure, perhaps?
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