American, British and Canadian Studies Journal (Jun 2019)
A Portrait of the Mehmandar: Accompanying Hajji Baba, of Ispahan, to England
There are few professions and professionals to be constantly perceived as ambivalent. But for interpreting and interpreters, this seems to be the norm, rather than the exception. On the one hand, there has always been a sense of fascination for these extraordinary people who speak so many languages and have such a wide knowledge of the world. On the other, they have inspired reluctance, distrust or even fear. While literary works sometimes reflect one or the other perception, James Justinian Morier’s The Adventures of Hajji Baba, of Ispahan, in England (1828) reflects both and provides us with an insight into the nature and circumstances of the situation. By following the attitude towards the mehmandar throughout the novel, the present paper considers a set of memes that seem to be still valid today. The reasons this is so relate to features inherent in the profession, the privilege of understanding both sides ‘of the coin’, the power tamper with information, the risk of misunderstanding, etc.