Navy cloth binding with gilt title, gilt and green ‘art nouveau’ decoration on the spine and boards.
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Hajji Baba begins and ends with fictional letters penned by Europeans which frame the narrative within. The premise is that Hajji Baba was a living individual who gifted his diary to a British traveler, who himself went on to translate and publish it. The narrative follows the eponymous Hajji Baba on his life adventures traveling throughout Persia. Through a series of encounters during which he plays a variety of roles, lowborn Hajji Baba eventually becomes the assistant of the Persian ambassador to Britain. The story is partly based on Morier’s own experiences and acquaintances during his time in Persia. In particular, the Persian envoy to Britain featured in the novel, Mirza Firouz, reflects the actual Persian envoy to Britain at the time, Mirza Abdul Hasan Khan. The Mirza and Morier were reportedly friends until the publication of Hajji Baba; however, Morier’s portrayal of Persia was so unfavorable that Khan reportedly decided to cut ties with him.
Hajji Baba corresponds to the picaresque genre, a type of satirical, episodic fiction that centers on a lovable rascal. The early nineteenth century in Britain ushered in a new kind of picaresque novel, where the main character is a foreign, non-British character who traverses an “exotic” country. This shift coincided with the growing European geo-political interests in the Middle East, triggered by France’s invasion of Egypt in the late eighteenth century, as explored by Ewan R. Wall in his essay “The historical context of James J. Morier’s travels: France, the U.K. and Persia 1798-1815.” Contemporary fictional works similar to Hajji Baba include Anastasius, or, Memoirs of a Greek (1819) by Thomas Hope, and Pandurang Hari, or, Memoirs of a Hindoo (1826) by William Browne Hockley.
Morier’s portrayal of Persia focuses on the country’s manners and customs, and ultimately presents Persia as a backward and amoral place. In fact, while Hajji Baba “exposes the corruption from the inside,” he eventually triumphs by working within this corrupt system.
James Justinian Morier (15 August 1782 – 19 March 1849) was a British diplomat and author noted for his novels about the Qajar dynasty in Iran, most famously for the Hajji Baba series. These were filmed in 1954.
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