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The Delight of Hearts: Or What You Will Not Find in Any Book based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
So, The Delight of Hearts, or What You Will Not Find in Any Book by al-Tifashi is part of my long-neglected research pile, though fairly tangential to my main interests. It is a book from the late 11 c. or early 12 c. and pulls together many stories and anecdotes from earlier periods as well (at least to 8 c.). This edition is an English translation of part of the complete French translation of the original Arabic manuscript, published by Gay Sunshine Press.What is this book, you ask? It's a compendium of stories, poems, jokes and other vignettes about notable homosexual members of the Baghdad court and the intelligentsia of medieval Islam. The complete original treatise also includes heterosexual material, but that was considered outside the interests and scope of this edition. Sadly, they left out the chapter on "spanking" or "beating" style massage, which is apparently still The translation tries to be true to the tone of the original, so there's a lot of crude language and some amazingly graphic material.The introduction by the English translator was very useful in setting the context. It included a nice discussion of the evolution of Arabic poetic traditions and how to interpret some of the imagery and metaphors. It also connected gay sexual practices among the Muslim aristocracy to Greco-Roman and Persian traditions. The final chapter is an interview with a doctor who explains his theory on the cause of homosexuality and his prescriptions for curing it (depending on the age and experience of the patient). It's a very interesting look at medieval medicine and probably no worse than modern "cures."I have mixed feelings about the book. On the one hand, there's a certain amusement about such literature from historical eras given such homophobia in modern Islamic cultures (and Christian too, for that matter, but I don't think we're going to find any comparable medieval sex treatises by Christian authors, whereas I've seen multiple Islamic sources on the topic--of course, that could just reflect where I'm looking more than the availability of such materials). On the other hand, while al-Tifashi indicates that some gay men of his day preferred adult partners, the vast majority of the material revolves around sex with adolescents at best. Moreover, it also largely portrays highly exploitative encounters--the worst was the chapter on "stinging" or "sleepwalking": sexually molesting boys while they're asleep, though sometimes full-grown men are the inadvertent recipients of such attentions. But there's also boy prostitutes colluding with housebreakers to rob johns, older men using young slaves to lure young men into isolated places, and on and on. And this is probably largely a reflection of how vulnerable gays and bisexuals were (and still are) in a society where such orientations are officially prohibited.So while I am sympathetic in concept, and some of the material is pretty funny, my modern sensibilities are disturbed at best and horrified at worst by much of the content because of the ages of most of the targets of these stories and the way that most of them are consummated.