Knowledge for Happiness

by Tarık Günersel    /  March 14, 2014  / No comments

“If ignorance is honored when wisdom is forced out
Then honor is dishonored, there can be no doubt”

Yusuf Has Hajib

Yusuf Has Hajib, as featured on the Kyrgyz 1000 som note. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Tarık Günersel has selected, paraphrased, and recomposed ideas from Kutadgu Bilig / Knowledge For Happiness, the 6500 couplet work written by the Uyghur thinker Yusuf Khass Hajib in 1070. The Turkish “distillation” of the work was translated into English by T. Günersel and Beverly Barbey.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

One who knows will hold his tongue through fear
Slavery to money now dominates life here

Where the sword is silver ever lies
Where any silver is, there the sword flies

Ignorant people are just a flock of sheep
Anger destroys knowledge—a ruler calm should keep

O King, you have sovereign rights, it’s true
But your people also have rights over you

Even though force may invade a land
The sword will not suffice to command

Enmity must disappear for any peace process
An ambassador should know languages, backgammon, and chess

Even one foe will bring you a thousand harms
A thousand friends? For one more, open your arms

When you are praised, be modest, do not crow
When criticized, keep working, don’t go slow

If you don’t invite people they find one fault in you
But a thousand faults appear to them if you do

The path to quality will always be uphill
Shoddy work is easy and needs no skill

Mature work takes time, be patient and keen
Haste leads to rawness as can often be seen

If ignorance is honored when wisdom is forced out
Then honor is dishonored, there can be no doubt

Only two aphorisms were a wise man’s address
And then he regretted having not spoken less

Calmness and elegance mean wisdom and sagacity
Your body is not immortal, but your name can be

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About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

View all articles by Tarık Günersel

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Fearless, Ink.