Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh, He Never Returned, No, He Never Returned

Carsten Niebuhr, Travels through Arabia and Other Countries in the East, tr. Robert Heron, Vol. II (Edinburgh: R. Morrison and Son [et al.], 1792), p. 252:
The Arabians are greatly shocked when that accident happens to a man, which is the natural consequence of the fulness of the intestines after too copious a meal, and of the indigestion of windy articles of diet. The Chevalier D'Arvieux has been blamed as guilty of exaggeration in what he says concerning the delicacy of the Arabs upon this score; but I have found all that he says of the manners and usages of this nation to be strictly true. I am therefore inclined to believe equally what he relates concerning things which I could not observe or verify myself. It would seem that the Arabs are not all equally shocked at such an involuntary accident. Yet, a Bedouin, guilty of such a piece of indecency, would be despised by his countrymen. The instance of an Arab of the tribe of Belludsje was mentioned to me, who, for a reason of this sort, was obliged to leave his country, and never durst return.
Niebuhr refers to Laurent d'Arvieux, Voyage fait par ordre du roy Louis XIV, dans la Palestine... (Paris: André Cailleau, 1717), p. 172 (my translation):
What is more shameful among them is to break wind, which is a sort of crime if done on purpose. When a fart unfortunately does escape them in public, they are regarded as disgraced individuals, with whom no one wants any more to do, and it has often happened that those who have had this misfortune have been obliged to go into exile and live among other peoples, lest they be exposed to jeers and to all the consequences of a bad reputation.

Ce qu'il y a de plus malhonnête parmi eux, c'est de lâcher des vents, c'est une espece de crime que d'en faire volontairement. Lors qu'il leur en échappe par malheur dans quelque compagnie, ils sont regardés comme des gens infames, avec qui l'on ne veut plus avoir de commerce, & il est souvent arrivé que ceux qui avoient eu ce malheur, ont été obligés de s'absenter et de passer chés d'autres peuples, pour n'êtres pas exposés aux huées, & à toutes les suites d'une méchante reputation.

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