Rabi David Elian Assyrian Poet, Writer, and Translator

We are delighted to announce that the Mesopotamian Night team is making good progress in bringing to life the work of prolific Assyrian writer David Elian (1910-2001) called “Maam Shallou”

The article below first appeared in Melta Magazine in 2000 in Moscow. The writer of the article is Mr. Edward Badalov. We appreciate Mr. Vasili Shoumanov of Chicago to send us the article and the photo. In the next few weeks, we will continue to provide you with more information about the author David Elian, his masterpiece “Maam Shallou” and our production based on his work.

Rabi David Elian was born into a teacher’s family in Saida (Lebanon) in 1910. The future poet spent his early years in the village of Satibak, in Van region of Turkey, where his family had moved to shortly after his birth. In 1918 due to persecutions, Rabi David’s family fled to Trans Caucasus region. Eventually, they all settled down in Elendorf (now Khanlar, Azerbaijan).

David began to write when he was very young. He published his first poems in the 1920s in the Tiflis based Assyrian newspaper “Kokhva d’Madynkha”. In 1933 he published his poem “Moscow” followed by publication of the poem “Mam Shallou” first in 1938, and then in Germany.

David spent almost all his life in the art in Tbilisi where he had come after his exile years in Siberia and where he lived for about 50 years. To this city he dedicated his poem “Tbilisi”. It is here again where he composed such poems as “Saddakra”, “Enkidu”, “Ishtar’s love for the Eagle”, a book of verse “Garden of a Thousand Roses”, short stories and fables “Pilgrim and Rose”, “Akhikar lives on”, “No Freedom Without a Motherland” and others put together in one book “The Magic Idol” translated into Georgian and published in Tbilisi in 1983. A brilliant expert in the Assyrian language he translated into the Assyrian language the poem of great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli “A warrior in the tiger’s skin”. Its chapters entered into “The Book of the Assyrian Language” edited by academician K.G. Tsereteli. Rabi David also translated some verses by Nikolos Baratashvili and Ivan Franko.

Rabi David Elian’s name appears in the “Concise Encyclopedia of Literal Works” published in Moscow in 1971. It was also included in three volumes of “The History of the Assyrian Literature”, published by Rabi Pira Sarmas in Tehran in 1962.

Rabi David’s short stories “The boy that drinks the Sun”, “Why God created evil?”, “No Freedom Without a Motherland”, “Two Summits and Two Hearts”, etc. would put him on par with Mor Gregorios Bar Ebraya (aka Gregory Bar Hebraeus) the author of “The Book of Adventures” an outstanding encyclopedia of the 13th century.

Reading his woks one can be surprised to find a profound philosophical approach enhanced by his optimistic vision of life in his “Garden of a Thousand Roses”, as well as his extensive knowledge of history and culture of the Assyrian people in his “Saddakra”, “Enkidu”, etc. Rabi David’s legacy is enormous.