Basket containing miscellaneous items, including a hand-written and illustrated manuscript with missing chapters.
Panier contenant des objets divers y compris un manuscrit d’un livre sur l’amour et la chevalerie écrit à la main et illustré, avec des chapitres manquants.
Dedication reads: To M. M., true friend, tall spirit. And, as always, Anna.
The pages of the original document are curled at the sides due to water damage. The pages are thin, handwritten in Russian. Their near perfect calligraphy has led researchers to speculate there are other notebooks with earlier drafts. There are charts and hand-drawn illustrations in the margins. On page three there is a poor photocopy of a map from the 15th century of the Caucasus region. Next to that is a medical drawing of a human heart photocopied from a Soviet medical textbook, circa 1954. Chapter four, the section where the ten laws of Love and Chivalry are supposed to be revealed, is torn and thus remains incomplete (only one of the ten laws remains; theories of the “lost nine” are expounded upon in The Annotated Book of Love and Chivalry (Boston University Press, 2001)).
Biographical Details about the fake Author
On the back inside cover of The Annotated Book of Love and Chivalry, the following details are written:
Dr. Sayid K. enjoys swimming but only in open bodies of water. The water must be of a particular clarity for him to consent to jump in. He has a weakness for Armenian cognac, Georgian women, and Azeri spirituality, notably the Zoroastrians and their fire rituals. Born in Baku, he is a devout Muslim from a reputable family. He has been married to a Georgian named Anna for fifteen years; not only does he tolerate the Christian Orthodox faith, he has a deep fascination with Jesus. He enjoys cooking, particularly with pomegranates. Garlic gives him gas.
Dr. Sayid K. developed the rather unusual theory that ancient maps, cartographers and travel writers portray the Caucasus in the shape of a human heart. To this he attached great mythological, metaphysical and metaphorical significance. To Sayid K. the history of the Caucasus, its wars and religions, its shifting borders and linguistic distinctions, even the invention of wine, could be attributed to the physical contours of these ancient maps. ‘That a region as passionately divided as the Caucasus would be portrayed in the shape of a human heart,’ Dr. Sayid K. wrote in the prologue to The Book of Love and Chivalry, ‘is wildly important and essentially accurate.’
The Book of Love and Chivalry
By Dr. K. Sayid.
Chapter 8: How to Travel without Memory
We are traveling through the land of the Laks, my guide said to me. Once they had a great civilization. Where are they now? I asked my guide. They forgot who they were, so they disappeared. How do you forget who you are as a nation, a culture? I asked. My guide said, they were forced from the mountains to the plains, so they lost their cities, their houses of prayer, and their fighting spirit, but they still had their myths and their language. Over time their children studied Russian in the schools; soon everyone wanted only to learn Russian because that’s how you get a job. And so the language was lost, and all they were left with were their stories. And what’s a story outside its original skin? asked my guide. A myth in translation, I said. Exactly, said the guide. In which case the translation needs to be written. Nobody wrote it down? I asked. Nobody, said my guide. When the myth becomes abstract, it becomes a dream, fleeting then forgotten. And then what? I said. Then a nation is dead.
Details about the document's historical context or reception
The original, handwritten The Book of Love and Chivalry was discovered on the person of Sayid K. in the village of Kazbegi, Georgia where he was a local shepherd. He died of unknown causes in a field near his home. The Book of Love and Chivalry was found in his leather satchel, which he occasionally carried his lunch in.
For many years the unpublished manuscript sat dormant in the house of his wife Anna (she kept his belongings most precious to her in an old circular wooden box on the bookshelf). In the 90s Anna opened the house up as a hiker’s bed and breakfast. A German professor named Max Glaap inquired about the contents of the box. Anna revealed that it contained her husband’s unpublished manuscript. Max Glaap asked if he may read it. Anna acceded. Max Glaap, a specialist in the Caucasus, immediately decided it needed to be published. With the permission of Anna, and the assurances her husband’s name would be duly the celebrated, it was published in Hamburg in a small run of 250 copies. The cover was black with writing in small, ten point font, silver capital letters. The font was Baskerville.
The book caused a good deal of controversy in the post-Soviet academic community (Stanislav Derlugian and Max Blinishvilli, Armenian and Georgian scholars, respectively, wrote, ‘Such drek could only be conjured up by an Azeri fool’). Others hailed Dr. K. an ‘anti-nationalist genius’. Chapter 4 is the most controversial and elusive of the chapters as it elucidates the premise that the Caucasus, in ancient maps, “is shaped like a human heart”. Since only one of the ten laws of love and chivalry survive (‘Thou shalt not surrender to gravity’), Dr. Sayid K.’s death and the missing chapter are enshrouded in mystery. It is something that both haunts and divides scholars.
While many have debated the book’s contents, in time the focus of scholars turned to the question of Dr. Sayid K himself. His existence has become difficult to prove. Anna died not long after the book’s publication. Max Glaap’s undying curiosity turned to researching Sayid’s name and lineage. He discovered that Sayid K. is rather untraceable. This led Max Glaap to conclude, through extensive research and interviews, that Sayid K. was in fact a German named Jozef Knudel.
On Jozef Knudel, author of the spurious document
Jozef Knudel is originally of German descent. He grew up eating spaetzle and playing the klavier. He was noted, in his gymnasium yearbook, for his modest interpretations of Bach. At the age of eighteen he was drafted into Hitler’s armies; he arrived in the Caucasus in 1942 during Operation Eidelweiss. An SS officer, he was part of the 50 000 strong force that tried to conquer Georgia, Chechnya and the Azeri oilfields. The Nazi invasion failed and Jozef disappeared, assumed to be dead on the battlefield. His wife Vera, in their home in Stuttgart, mourned his death and erected a tombstone in the Stuttgart cemetery in his memory.
It was discovered that when the German invasion started to fail, Knudel disappeared into the Caucasian landscape. Knudel converted to Islam. He lived in the small mountain village of Kazbegi where he worked as a shepherd, a bar keeper and German literature instructor. Later he met a Georgian woman named Anna. He spent his days in a small hut behind the family house writing obscure theories of the Caucasus.
The Book of Love and Chivarly was his life’s work. It took fifteen years to complete. He talked about it often to Anna. On the way there were stumbling blocks. Most noteworthy was a period of eight months of writer’s block. Several times he contemplated suicide. However, on January 8, 1956, at a party in Kobe, after drinking copious amounts of cha-cha, he was asked who he was. To Anna’s surprise, Knudel said, “Dr. Sayid K.” The next day he unlocked the central conundrum of the book. It is believed this is why he ascribed its authorship to Sayid. In a region where names, borders and conquerors change as often as one changes underwear, it seemed perfectly normal when he became known to his neighbours as Sayid. Anna sometimes called him, “Knudelface.”
After this seminal change in self it was not uncommon to find Sayid on the streets of Kazbegi donning a traditional Adyghe coat with dagger, belt, and mountain hat, singing mountain songs and clumsily engaging their dance. Soon he became adept in the traditional mountain dances; people generally knew him to be a fun if not odd person. Sayid K. worked in a tiny hut with a wood stove, a fountain pen, and a kerosene lamp.
But what of the missing nine laws of Love and Chivalry? Who holds the missing chapter? The answer, likely, lies in the box.