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This article about the use of dogs of various sizes as narrative punctuation reminded me of José Saramago's The History of the Siege of Lisbon, in which it was 'true that a dog did bark, to no avail, for everyone else was asleep, perhaps dreaming that they were barking in their dreams.'

--but moving on from the auspices of that particular (involving a blind muezzin at sunrise) story into the more solid realm of Proper Historical Criticism (!), a few pages later --

It is doubtful, for example, although it is always wise to question one's own doubt, that the historian would mention dogs and the barking of dogs in his narrative, because he knows that the dog, for the Arabs, is an unclean animal, just like the pig, and therefore, it would be a display of crass ignorance to assume that the Moors of Lisbon, zealous as they are, would be living cheek by jowl with a pack of dogs. A pigsty by the door of the house and a dog-kennel or wicker basket for one's lap-dog are Christian inventions, it is not by accident that the Moslems refer to the warriors of the cross as dogs, and they might well have called them pigs, although there is no evidence to prove it. Clearly, if this is true, then it is a pity not to be able to count any more on a dog barking at the moon or scratching its ear infested by fleas [...]

--which reminds me of this Arab-perspective account from the tenth century of terrible, flea-bitten Europeans, washing themselves and spitting all together in the same n-times-befouled water, and et cetera; there is probably material for some sort of insightful cultural/contextual commentary in all this, but a book entitled 'DOGS $with some expository text$' just turned up on my doorstep with the afternoon post. It is by a particular Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, and cannot decide whether it wants to be called 'DOGS FROM A SUFI POINT OF VIEW' (as its cover claims), or 'DOGS From the Sufi Point of View' (the interior title-page begs to differ!). In any case, we are quite clear on the inclusion of DOGS. This book appears to have a somewhat discombobulated attitude towards The Dog (who always deserves this sort of capitalisation, naturally, as a Platonic Archetype of Woof).
1. "Dear friends, the dog addressed me in the language of state, saying 'Bayazid, what did I do wrong in pre-eternity and you do right, that I should be dressed in the skin of a dog and you in the robes of the monarch of gnostics?'."
2. I am the dog at the threshold of neediness,
My collar is fashioned from fidelity to God.
3. [...] if two persons pass by carrying a bier on their shoulders with a body upon it, this ignoble creature thinks it is a banquet to be spread.

& so, quite historically interesting really! (The book is interesting, if flawed, and my teasing is lightly-meant.) I shall eschew further citations, however germane, in favour of pointing out the insult 'O water-skin full of wind!', which is truly quite splendid. However, all of this caused some understandable confusion in my mind regarding the correct place of the dog (The Dog) in the natural order. So I asked my six-year-old cousin if she would explain to me the dog. Her response was 'Don't be silly.'

So I sha'n't.

October 2011

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