The epic love story of Layla and Majnun originated as an Arabic Bedouin love story, migrated into the Persian epic Shahnameh, was emancipated by the great romantic poet Nizami, and from there travelled to Delhi via Amir Khusro. Since then, it has been adapted by different cultures, languages, and artistic formats, finding new life among a new generation of readers each time.

In this panel dedicated to this landmark work of literature, join visiting Shubbak Festival artist Amer Hlehel, who has re-told Qassim Haddad’s rendering of the tale, Soraya Syed, who has recently created a short film on the subject, and classical literature translation expert James Montgomery to discuss the history and legacy of the poem, looking at its influence on other works of art and its relationship to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

About The Authors

Soraya Syed

Soraya Syed is a classically trained calligrapher and internationally renowned artist who pushes the boundaries of this traditional art form. She takes the written word off the page into dance, film and VR. She has worked with the likes of Google, the British Museum and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

James Montgomery

James E. Montgomery is Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic and Fellow of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. He is an Executive Editor of the Library of Arabic Literature. James has published many books and articles on Classical Arabic literature, and is a widely published translator of Classical Arabic Poetry. Among his latest publications are: War Songs (New York 2018), his translation of the pre-Islamic poet Antarah ibn Shaddad; Loss Sings, an essay on translating the Arabic poet al-Khansa’ (London 2018), selected by Dame Marina Warner in the Times Literary Supplement as one of her best books of 2018. He is currently preparing a selection of translations of the tenth century Syrian poet, al-Mutanabbi.