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Aleksander Chodzko's Biography (Books)

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CHODZKO, ALEKSANDER BOREJKO (b. 30 August 1804, in Krzywicze, Poland in the Russian Empire [the city is now in Belarus], d. Noisy-le-Sec, near Paris, 19 December 1891), Polish poet and diplomat, the first European scholar to work on Persian folklore. Between 1820 and 1823 he studied at the university of Wilno/Vilna, the main center for Oriental languages and literatures in Poland. After being arrested in 1823 for membership in the Society of Philarets, a secret association of student patriots dedicated to Polish independence from foreign rule, he went to St. Petersburg, where he studied languages (Arabic, Persian, Turkish) at the Oriental Institute from 1824 to 1830. He then entered the Russian diplomatic service and was sent to Persia, where he served as translator and interpreter at the Rus-sian missions in Tabriz and Tehran and as consul at Rast.

He remained in Persia until 1257/1841, then traveled in Greece and Italy; in 1842 he joined the Polish emigre community in Paris, where he came under the influence of the romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), whose activities had already captured his interest while he was a student in Wilno. Like Mickiewicz, he became an adherent of the mystical and messianic thought of Andrzej Towianski, based partly on reverence for Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1844 Chodzko resigned from the Russian diplomatic service and in 1847 married Helena Jundzill in Switzerland. In the latter year he also applied for the chair of Persian at the College de France and the chair of Turkish at the Bibliotheque Royale. Between 1852 and 1855 he worked for the French foreign ministry as an expert on Oriental affairs. In 1857, he applied for the chair of Persian at the Ecole des Langues Orientales in Paris, but the post went to Charles Schefer (d. 1898; Leger, p. 493). In the same year Chodzko succeeded Mickiewicz as professor (charge de cours) of Slavic studies at the College de France, where he remained until he retired in 1883; during this period he was unable to pursue his Oriental studies as actively as before, but, toward the end of his life, he returned to them.

In April 1858 Farro? Khan Amin-al-Dawla placed under Chodzko's guardianship forty-two Persian students, including the painter Mozayyen-al-Dawla ?affari and future mathematician Mohandes-al-Mamalek ?affari, who had been sent to France for advanced education (Sarabi, p. 7; Thieury, p. 30). Eighteen of the younger Persian students were placed at the College de Dieppe in Normandy (Thieury, pp. 37--38). According to Amir(-e) Ne?am Garrusi, then Persian ambassador in Paris, he fulfilled his trust so well that he deserved to be given extra fees from the divan to help support his family. Chodzko wanted to send his two sons, at that time fourteen and sixteen years old and gifted at languages, to Tehran to serve the Persian government (see Sohayli ?ansari, pp. 7, 129-30, where Chodzko is referred to as His Excellency [?Alijah] Mirza Aleksander).

Opinions of his character and morals varied. The British viewed "M. Khodzko, Chancellor of the Russian Mission [at Rast]" as a "shrewd and persevering intrigant" (memorandum by J. Campbell, Public Record Office, FO 50/37, 1835). After General Isidore Borowsky, a Pole by birth, had been killed fighting with the Persians at the siege of Herat in 1253/1838, General Barthelemy Semino married his widow and adopted his two sons. Semino accused Borowsky's testamentary executors, Chodzko and Edouard Goutte, also Polish by birth and first drago-man at the Russian mission in Tehran, of having em-bezzled most of Borowsky's heritage with the help of Borowsky's former employee Mirza ?Abbas (Semino's private papers; copy in possession of J. Calmard; in this correspondence Chodzko is called either Alexandre Chodikoff or A. Khodzko, and Borowski is spelled Barowski; for a vague allusion to this case see Bamdad, Rejal II, p. 129; see also Utas, pp. 175-76). Nevertheless, Chodzko was decorated with the Order of the Lion and Sun (grand cordon, in diamonds) by Mo?ammad Shah. Louis Leger--Chodzko's successor at the College de France--considered that "he had an admirable knowl-edge of Persian language and literature." He was affable and hospitable toward his students and "is remembered as a poet of refinement, a conscientious professor, an excel-lent man."

Chodzko's scholarly work on the Orient was concentrated primarily in Persian and Turkish studies. In his poetry, too, he, like many of his contemporaries, was influenced by Persian motifs and language, as in Poemat wschodni--Derar (An oriental poem--"The pearls"), St. Petersburg, 1829; repr. Paris, 1836. His earliest publication on Persian traditions and folk literature was Specimens of the Popular Poetry of Persia, as Found in the Adventures and Improvisations of Kurroglou... , London, 1842; 2nd ed., London, 1864. It was partly translated by George Sand under the title "Les aventures et les improvisations de Kourroglou, recueillies par Alexandre Chodzko, en Perse," in La revue independante 6, 1843, pp. 71-84; 7, 1843, pp. 358-77. Chodzko himself, with the collaboration of A. Breulier, also translated the work into French as "Aventures et improvi-sations de Kouroglou, heros populaire de la Perse septentrionale," in La revue orientale et algerienne 4/1, 1853, pp. 73-94, 4/2, 1853, pp. 205-35, and La revue de l'Orient, de l'Algerie et des colonies 1, 1855, pp. 349-66, 2, 1855, pp. 57-65; 3, 1856, pp. 107-26, 4, 1856, pp. 269-84; 5, 1857, pp. 194-214, 6, 1857, pp. 41-62, pp. 215-23. A Persian translation appears in Moammad-Ali Dawlat--e Neam Quran Kuceki, No?ba-ye sayfia, ed. M. Ette?adiya and S. Sa?dvandian, Tehran, 1360 S./1981, pp. 89-97 (on various editions and translations of "Kuro?lu" in Turkish, Kurdish, Russian, Tajik, and other languages, see R. Ra?is Nia, Kuro?lu dar afsana wa tari?, Tabriz, 1366 S./1987). This work was followed by a series of articles on popular lore and songs that appeared in the journal La revue orientale et algerienne: "Le Khoracan et son heros populaire Buniad Hezare," 2/2, 1852, pp. 169-87; "Chants populaires turcomans, traduits des dialectes turkoman et turk oriental," 2/3, 1852, pp. 360-73; "Chants populaires perso-turcs," 2/4, 1852, pp. 465-73; "Chants populaires de la Perse," 3/2, 1852, pp. 204-21; "Chants populaires des cotes meridionales de la mer Caspienne, dialectes ghilek, taliche et mazanderani," 3/4, 1852, pp. 441-65; "Chants historiques de l'Afghanistan en langue puchte," in La revue de l'Orient, de l'Algerie et des colonies 1, 1855, pp. 440-47. In 1859 he published Padyszach i czterech derwiszow (The padishah and the four dervishes) in Krakow (tr. by him as "L'amour d'une fee," Le moniteur universel (Paris), 25 November 1856, p. 3, 27 November 1856, p. 3, 28 November 1856, p. 3). Articles on other aspects of daily life in Persia include "Code de la femme chez les Persans" in Le correspondant 40 (N.S. 4), 1857, pp. 46-65.

Chodzko was especially interested in Persian theater and published "Le theatre en Perse" in La revue independante 15, 1844, 161-208; and "Le theatre en Perse" in La revue de l'Orient 6, 1845, pp. 119-35. He possessed a manuscript containing the texts of thirty-three ta?zia plays, which he had acquired in Tehran in 1833; it is now ms. pers. 993 in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. He edited, described, and translated some of these plays in several different publications: "Theatre persan. La tete de l'Imam Hussei?... ," La revue de l'Orient 6, 1845, pp. 239-62; Djungui Chehadet, Paris, 1852; Theatre persan. Choix de teazies ou drames, Paris, 1878; repr. Tehran, 1976. The last contains translations of five of the plays. (For editions and French translations based on this manuscript, see Virolleaud, pp. 10, 44ff.; several of the plays have been edited by Eqbal and Ma?jub).

Among Chodzko's works related to his diplomatic career and his travels in Persia were "Souvenirs diplomatiques," which appeared in La tribune des peuples, the radical journal edited by Mickiewicz in Paris, between 1 and 14 September 1849: 89, p. 1, 90, pp. 1-2, 93, p. 1-3, 94, pp. 1-2, 96, pp. 1-2, 97, pp. 1-2, 98, pp. 1-2, 101, pp. 1-2, 102, pp. 1-2; "Le Ghilan, ou les marais Caspiens," Nouvelles annales des voyages (Paris), 1849, 4, pp. 257--71; 1850, 1, pp. 193-215, 285-306, 2, pp. 61-76, 200-09, 3, pp. 68-93; repr. Paris, 1850 (tr. S. Sahami as Sarzamin--e Gilan, Tehran, 1354 S./1975); "Excursion aux Pyles Caspiennes," Nouvelles annales des voyages, 1850, pp. 280-308; "Les adorateurs du feu et les sources de naphte de Baku," Le moniteur universel, 3 August 1856, p. 3; "De la lithographie en Perse," Le moniteur universel, 21 September 1857, p. 4. While in Persia he seems also to have taken a particular interest in silkworm cultivation there: "Perse. Industrie sericole," La revue de l'Orient 1, 1843, pp. 326-32; De l'eleve des vers a soie en Perse, Paris, 1843; repr. Paris, 1851.

Among his works on eastern languages and philology were Grammaire persane ou principes de l'iranien moderne, Paris, 1852, rev. ed. Paris, 1883; Le drogman turc, Paris, 1854; and "Etudes philologiques sur la langue kurde (dialecte de Soleimanie)," JA, ser. 5, 9, 1857, pp. 297-356.

Other literary works and translations include "Le deisme des Wahhabis explique par eux-memes. Memoire extrait du manuscrit des voyages de Mirza-Mohammad-Ali-Khan, dernier ambassadeur de Perse en France," JA, ser. 4, 11, 1848, pp. 168-86; "Le Decatir, code religieux des Mahabadiens," La revue orientate et algerienne 2/3, 1852, pp. 257-80; "Pend-name. La lettre des conseils... par Hassan Ali Khan" in La revue orientale et americaine (Paris) 6, 1861, pp. 69-78; "Contes en vers de Kaani... , La revue orientate et americaine 7, 1862, pp. 165-73; "L'enseigne d'un boucher sentimental en Perse... ," Bulletin de l'Athenee oriental (Paris) 1, 1881, pp. 168-86; "L'aventure du vizir du Khan de Lenkeran" in Bulletin de l'Athenee oriental 3, 1883, pp. 81-101 (after W. H. D. Haggard and G. Le Strange, The Vizir of Lankuran. A Persian Play, London, 1882).

Chodzko's numerous translations of folk tales, poetry, and dramas from Persian, Turkish, and various dialects were drawn from a great variety of manuscripts that he collected in Iran (some of them were actually copied for him as "Mirza Aleksander"); these manuscripts are now available at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Although the merits of his pioneering works were seldom recognized by his colleagues (contemporary authors and diplomats like J. A. de Gobineau, J. B. Nicolas, A. Querry, and A. Barbier de Meynard do not mention him), Jules Mohl praised his contributions on Persian theater (see JA, 1845, pp. 41-42; repr. in Mohl, Vingt-sept ans d'histoire des etudes orientales, Paris, 1879, pp. 183-84). Further evaluations of Chodzko's contributions on ta?zia-?ani have been made by Ernest Renan in "Les teazies de la Perse," Le journal des debats (Paris), 9 July 1878, p. 3 (repr. in Renan, Nouvelles etudes d'histoire religieuse, new ed., Paris, 1899, pp. 185-215) and recently by J. Calmard (Le monde iranien et l'Islam 2, 1974, p. 88; idem, "Muharram Ceremonies and Diplomacy (a Preliminary Study)," in E. Bosworth and C. Hillenbrand, eds., Qajar Iran, Edinburgh, 1983, p. 217; and P. J. Chelkowski, "Bibliographical Spectrum," in Chelkowski, ed., Ta'ziyeh. Ritual and Drama in Iran, New York, 1979, pp. 259-69. The most controversial of Chodzko's works remains his Grammaire persane. A rather favorable review by Etienne Quatremere (Journal des savants, 1852, pp. 696-707, 1853, pp. 370-82, 631-47) was severely criticized by Mirza Kasem Beg (JA, ser. 5/2, 1853, pp. 79-85, ser. 5/3, 1854, pp. 82-89; see also Chodzko's response, JA, ser. 5/3, 1854, pp. 538-48).

Chodzko, who is sometimes confused with his cousin Leonard Borejko Chodzko (1800-1871), librarian at the Sorbonne and author of numerous works on Poland, was a correspondent of the Academy of Krakow and vice-president of the Society of Polish History. In Paris he was one of the founders of the Societe de linguistique and a member of the Societe asiatique; he was named Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1861. His publications in the field of Slavic studies are mostly on lexicography, folk-lore, and legends.

Bibliografia literatury polskiej Nowy Korbut VII. Romantyzm, Warsaw, 1968, pp. 204-08.

- "Alexandre Chodzko," Bulletin de la Societe de linguistique de Paris 7/4 (36), 1892, p. clx. Dictionnaire de biographie francaise VIII, Paris, 1959, p. 1187.
- Z. Eqbal and M. J. Ma?jub, Jong-e sahadat, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 S./1976.
- Katalog rekopisow Muzeum Adama Mickiewieza w Paryzu, Krakow, 1931 (for private correspondence).
- L. Leger, "Chodzko," Revue encyclopedique 32/2, Paris, 1892, pp. 491-94.
- F. Machalski, "La litterature de l'Iran en Pologne," in Commemoration Cyrus. Hommage universel III, Acta Iranica 3, Tehran and Liege, 1974, pp. 397-410.
- Polski slownik biograficzny III, Krakow, 1937, pp. 380-81.
- H. Sarabi, Mazan al-waqaye, ed. K. Efahanian and Q. Rowsani, Tehran, 1344 S./1965.
- A. Sohayli ansari, ed., Amir Ne?am dar sefarat-e Faransa wa Engelis, Tehran, 1358 S./1979.
- J. Thieury, La Perse et la Normandie, Evreux, 1866.
- B. Utas, "A 19th Century Inscription at Persepolis and the Swedish Physician C. G. Fagergren," in Turcica et Orientalia. Studies in Honour of Gunnar Jarring on His Eightieth Birthday 12 October 1987, Istanbul and Stockholm, 1988, pp. 167-77.

C. Virolleaud, Le theatre persan, Paris, 1950.

Further biobibliographical data on Chodzko may be found in the archives of the College de France; in Semino's private papers; in correspondence kept at the Bibliotheque Nationale (catalogues of new ac-quisitions, 1946-57. Manuscripts collected by Chodzko include (numbers refer to Blochet, Supplement persan **) those given by Chodzko on 20 March 1873: nos. 993 (33 ta?zia dramas), 994 (Kuro?lu-nama with Persian translation copied for Mirza Aleksander in 1250/1834), 995 (75 letters addressed to Chodzko, apparently while he was Rus-sian consul in Tehran), 996 (popular songs of Khorasan with Polish translation and notes), 997 (poems and songs in Gilani, Azeri, and other dialects). Also collected by Chodzko but purchased by the library from a bookseller on 22 February 1892 were nos. 1125-35 (various manuscripts of classical poetry, popular songs, tales, mystical works, official correspondence, and so on) and 1135 (233 folios, containing papers relative to Chodzko, as well as some Safavid documents

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