The year that ends in 24 hours has wounded us all in various ways. To put it mildly, it has raised many questions that we will need to find answers to. I am not referring particularly to things related with this blog, the Sai project, Nubia and Sudan Studies, although as some of you know there has been a lot that has happened. And I am surely not the one who will mourn for those stars and emblems of our youth that grew with us through their excesses and addictions and out of our world. Perhaps I could pay respect to some who guided our paths in art indeed, or politics, or thinking, but again, I’d rather take their lives’ and works’ message to the next steps in our own lives continuing here and now. Surely, everyone should stop and think of what is happening in the Middle East; of how our climate suffers; of the reasons behind; of the persons playing these reasons in terms of financial interests against our children’s lives; perhaps even of the fear of this new type of persons in power. But that’s precisely the point: the call to stop and think. To approach calmly but critically, with scepticism but determination the questions that 2016 opened for all of us so acutely and even cruelly. Perhaps these open questions cause stress. But in the academic world it is these open questions that feed our time and our strategies for the near or the far away future. And we must learn to cope with these open questions with the enthusiasm of the child and the wisdom of an old (wo)man. Can we do it?
In anticipation of making this wish real, I close this year in this blog – without any knowledge of when (and if) I will return to it – with a question that I challenged myself to find an answer to during these holidays, and which still eludes me, but in such a fascinating manner!
This is a calendar produced by the Zellich printers in Constantinople for the year 1905. In a manner not unknown for Ottoman calendars there is a very eloquent for the conditions of the times combination of systems: beginning with up right, we see the Islamic calendar, moving anti-clockwise, we find the Rumi calendar, then the Julian calendar in Greek, and then the Gregorian calendar in French. Between the two pairs, there is a line of Bulgarian mentioning the eve of the day at hand, which seems to take as its base the Gregorian calendar. Right below there is a space with the date in Armenian, and right above the signature of the printers, there is also a Hebrew date, which is, however, wrong (it should have been 5665).
Checking the parallel given in wikipedia, I realized that the entry in Bulgarian cannot be explained as the mention of the day before the date given in either the Julian or the Gregorian calendar, since the rule does not apply in the example from 1911 made by the same printers.
Here, we see them printing the Bulgarian line with mention of the 30th of April, which is the last day of the month that both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars give. So, a plausible explanation would thus be that it was necessary to indicate how many days each month had, and thus the calendar page of the photo I first shared would not give any priority to the Julian calendar. I am not sure that the explanation is correct and this is surely due to my ignorance on the topic, but I am always willing to learn more, so I am happy to … leave the question open!
Perhaps I could conclude here, but then there would be no real relation with this blog, apart from the implicit interest of multilingualism, the apparent Ottoman liaison, and so on. While I was trying to find an answer to the question though, I turned to google and asked it: “Old Bulgarian calendar“. The “reply” surprised me, not so much for the ingenuity of the system the ancient Bulgarians seem to have devised, but because of the sign that appears as pivotal in the visual reconstruction that I embed right below, and which is a well-known topic appearing times and again in this blog.
Then, my wish for 2017 would be to enjoy such open questions that do not beg for immediate reactions because our future is at stake. And in such conditions of luxury, Henriette and myself might even find the time to write the work that explains how we understand this symbol. Happy New Year everybody!