In the Shade of the Golden Palace: Alaol and Middle Bengali Poetics in Arakan
In the Shade of the Golden Palace explores the work of the prolific Bengali poet Alaol (fl.1651-71), who translated five narrative poems and one versified treatise from medieval Hindi and Persian into Bengali. The book maps the genres, structures, and themes of Alaol's works, paying special attention to his discourse on poetics and his literary genealogy, which included Sanskrit, Avadhi, Maithili, Persian, and Bengali authors. D'Hubert focuses on courtly speech in Alaol's poetry, his revisiting of classical categories in a vernacular context, and the prominent role of performing arts in his conceptualization of the poetics of the written word. The foregrounding of this audacious theory of meaning in Alaol's poetry is a crucial contribution of the book, both in terms of general conceptual analysis and for its significance in the history of Bengali poetry. This book shows how multilingual literacy fostered a variety of literary experiments in the remote kingdom of Arakan, which lay between present-day southeastern Bangladesh and Myanmar, in the mid-17th century. D'Hubert also presents a detailed analysis of Middle Bengali narrative poems, as well as translations of Old Maithili, Brajabuli, and Middle Bengali lyric poems that illustrate the major poetic styles in the regional courts of eastern South Asia. In the Shade of the Golden Palace therefore fulfills three functions: it is a unique guide for readers of Middle Bengali poetry, a detailed study of the cultural history of the frontier region of Arakan, and an original contribution to the poetics of South Asian literatures.