1st Edition

Avarice & The Avaricious

By Al-Jahiz Copyright 1999

    This book is a translation, accurate and readable, of one of the wittiest pieces of medieval Arabic prose — Abu ‘Uthman al-Jahiz’s Avarice and the Avaricious. In the opinion of most Arab literary critics, Abu ‘Uthman al-Jahiz is one of the finest writers of Arabic of all time, described as the sultan of style and the very symbol of literary ability. He was a native of the city of Basra in southern Iraq, then the commercial and intellectual centre of the recently established Abbasid caliphate and the crucible where Islamic culture crystallised and assumed its form. Jahiz is characterised by wit, satire, irony and a wide-ranging erudition pinned to sharp observation of character. His language is agile and vigorous, lucid and precise. It is formally literary but inspired by the rhythms of ordinary speech. Digression and anecdote are commonplace as he passes seamlessly from the serious to the entertaining (and back again) for the improvement and pleasure of his readers. Hypocrisy and pretension are his targets. Reason, good sense, and a wholly uncynical good humour — the very salt of mirth — are his weapons. These qualities can all be found in the present work; one of his best-known books and, as the title suggests, an expose of the vice of miserliness among his contemporaries.


    JIM COLVILLE has wide experience throughout the Middle East and North Africa as an Arabic/English translator and interpreter. He is currently with the Royal Commission in Jubail, Saudi Arabia.