ʿERFĀN, ḤASAN (Hasan Aliḵonovič Mamadḵonov; b. 3 March 1900 at Samarkand; d. 22 June 1973, Figure 1), Tajik translator and writer. Raised in a lower middle class family, he went to both native schools and a Russian gymnasium (probably in Baku, where his father may have worked). In 1916, he received a degree in accounting from St. Petersburg through a correspondence course. He held various positions, mostly as a translator, in Uzbekistan’s industries until 1933, when he started teaching Persian at the State University of Samarkand, a job he continued until his retirement in 1960. ʿErfān, together with Raḥīm Hāšem and Ṣadr-al-Dīn ʿAynī (qq.v.) formed the core of the Tajik literary circle in Samarkand, where they published in 1919 the short-lived Šuʿlai inqilob (Šoʿla-ye enqelāb). Later, ʿErfān collaborated with the Samarkand office of the Tajikistan State Publications (Našrīyāt-e dawlatī-e Tājīkestān, renamed ʿErfān in 1964) and various Tajik periodicals.

ʿErfān is regarded as one of the founders, and best, of the modern Tajik translators. His numerous translations, from both Russian and Ottoman Turkish, cover a wide range of literary works, from Russia and Soviet revolutionary novelists such as Nikolaĭ Chernyshevskiĭ and Maksim Gorky to European writers such as Daniel Defoe and Jules Verne. Later his interest extended to modern Indian literature, from which he translated several works including Rabindranath Tagore’s in the late 1950s; these mark the best of his translations, as his preference was seemingly inclined to Eastern more than European works. Furthermore, his translations from Turkish, the language he mastered next to Persian, are superior to those from Russian. He also took part in extensive translation projects of Marxist political writings into Tajik, though in a modest capacity.

ʿErfān wrote novels in his retirement years which provide the reader with the rich and fluent Persian prose that marked his translations, blending the classical language with the idiomatic vernacular. Although they seem not to be prominent in contemporary Tajik fiction, they do portray aspects of social and intellectual life in Central Asia and Baku during the early 20th century. His Du yor az du diyor (Do yār az do dīār, 1962) and Dar kulbai kosibon (Dar kolba-ye kāsebān, 1963; Russian translation, Moscow, 1970) written in the autobiographic style of ʿAynī’s Yoddoštho (Yāddāšthā), contain his earlier memoirs.



Some of the information in this article came from personal interviews with Tajik writers. A photograph of the young ʿErfān appears in K. C. Aĭni, ed., Kniga zhizni Sadriddin Aĭni (Kār-nāma-ye Ostād Ṣadr-al-Dīn ʿAynī, Dushanbe, 1978, no. 60.

A. Nabiev, “Irfon,” in Īntsiklopediyai adabiyot va sanʿati tojik (Entsīklopīdīā-ye adabīyāt wa ṣanʿat-e tājīk) I, Dushanbe, 1988, pp. 514-15.

M. Šukurov, “Našri solhoi 1945-74” (Našr-e sālhā 1945-74), in Taʾriḵi adabiyoti sovetii tojik (Tārīḵ-e adabīyāt-e sāvetī-e tājīk) IV, Dushanbe, 1980, pp. 77 ff.

S. Uluḡzoda, “Sirtalabī va ḡamḵori” (Sīr-ṭalabī wa ḡamḵorī), Sadoi šarq (Sadā-ye šarq) 5, 1966, pp. 117-22.

(Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

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Vol. VIII, Fasc. 5, p. 555