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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a picaresque novella genre that arose in Arabic literature of the ninth and tenth centuries and later spread to Persian-Tadzhik and Hebrew literatures. The central figure of a maqama tale was usually a wandering unsuccessful man of letters, earning his living through his poetical skill and erudition. The narrative interest of the maqama is based on the hero’s somewhat rascally cunning, while his erudition and poetical skill provide the story’s learned content.

Maqama novellas were written in rhymed prose (saj) in accordance with carefully elaborated rules of form. They abounded in puns, complicated stylistic figures, quotations, and maxims, which often made them accessible only to a narrow circle of connoisseurs of belles-lettres. The most well-known practitioners of the maqama genre include Badi al-Zaman (969-1007), founder of the genre, and al-Hariri (1054-1122), both Arabs; in Iranian literature, Khamid al-Din Balkhi (died 1164); and in Hebrew literature, Judah Ben Solomon al-Harizi (1165-1225). The maqama is sometimes considered the direct predecessor of the European picaresque novel.

In Arabic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an attempt was made to revive the maqama genre (for example, The Story of Isa ibn Hisham, 1907, by Muhammad Muwaylihi).


Krymskii, A. E. Arabskaia poeziia v ocherkakh i obraztsakh. Moscow, 1906.
Krachkovskii, I. Iu. Izbr. soch., vol. 3. Moscow, 1956.
Fil’shtinskii, I. M. Arabskaia klassicheskaia literqtura. Moscow, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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