Introduction

‘Once, when I was conversing in Russian and, as usual, was translating my thoughts, which formed themselves Persian fashion, I found it necessary to use an expression which we Persians often employ in conversation, myan-­diaram, which means in French je dis and in English “I say”. But try as I might, searching my memory for a corresponding word in Russian, I could not find one, in spite of my knowing by this time almost all the words of this language used either in literature or for the ordinary mutual relations of people of all levels of intellectualism.

‘Not finding a corresponding word for this simple expression so often used by us, I of course at first decided that I simply did not yet know it, and I began to search in my numerous dictionaries and to inquire of certain people who were considered authorities, for some Russian word which would correspond to this Persian meaning of mine. However, it turned out that in modern Russian there is no such word at all, but instead a word is used, namely, yah gohvahriou, which means in Persian myan­-soil­-yaram, in French je parle and in English “I speak”.

‘Since you Persians have the same sort of thinking faculty as I have for digesting the meaning conveyed by words, I therefore ask you: could I, or any other Persian, on reading in contemporary Russian literature a word corresponding to the meaning of soil­yaram, accept it without instinctive disturbance as having the same meaning as the word diorama Of course not: soil­-yaram and diaram—or “speak” and “say”—are two quite different “experienced actions”.

‘This very minor example is characteristic of thousands of other incongruities to be found in all the languages of the peoples who represent the so-called flower of contemporary civilization. And it is these incongruities which prevent the literature of today from serving as the basic means for developing the minds of those peoples who are considered representatives of this civilization and also of those peoples who at the present time—obviously for reasons already suspected by certain persons with common sense—are somehow deprived of the good fortune of being considered civilized and are therefore, as historical data bear witness, usually called backward.

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