What Every Young Man and Woman Should Know …

PriftiCover2014That Omar Khayyám definitely has gone digital may be a surprise to no one. The digital versions of editions and critial works that are out of copyrights abound since years. More recently we see a steady flow of new rubáiyáts in various formats of ebooks: DjVu, ePub, eReader, iBook, pdf and many others.

A recent example bears the somewhat intruiging title What Every Young Man and Woman Should Know about the Rubaiyat Omar Khayyam and Edward Fitzgerald. The work was edited by Paulin Prifti, published by Paul Smith Publishing London (2014) and issued as a Kindle edition, available from Amazon. There are twelve rather elegant and decent illustrations in colour by Silvia Gallani.


Now, what does the editor think that young people should know about the rubáiyát? First of all “How the Rubaiyat was found”, secondly “What is the Rubaiyat”, next “Who was Omar Khayyám” and finally “Who was Edward FitzGerald”. These are the titles of four short chapters that provide brief introductions to these themes. In the first part Whitley Stokes’ role is simply left out. Here it was Rossetti who went rummaging through Quaritch’s boxes to find the little pamphlet. The other intros suffice for a curious but uninformed audience, though Khayyám’s authorship, which is a rather essential part of the rubáiyát history, even for the lay, is hardly questioned. In the third chapter we read in the first lines: “Omar Khayyám was born between 1046 and 1048 in Nishapur city…”, and in the last lines it turns out that “Omar Khayyám died in 1213 …”.

The text is from FitzGerald’s first version, however without the introduction and notes, Would that be too much for the younger generations?

ISBN 978-0-9927170-1-8

The Essential Edward FitzGerald

This is a newly published e-book with the main versions of FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, (the first, second and fifth), and his translation of Jámí’s Salámán and Absál. The work includes all the original notes and prefaces, together with an Appendix, Glossary and Endnotes.

This e-book, available in ePub-format, is published in the Carrigboy Classics Series, and was edited by Simon Prichard.  Carrigboy Cassics are a specially chosen series drawn from the very best of the World’s classical literature.

The Essential Edward FitzGerald. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Salámán and Absál.   Translated by Edward FitzGerald. Compiled and Edited by Simon Prichard. Carrigboy Classics, 2014. ISBN 978-1-910388-00-6.
Available at CreateSpace, $12,67.

The illustrated Omar Khayyam

A new version of Khayyám’s quatrains was recently published by Benny Thomas, architect by profession and poet by temperament, in his own words. The work comprises 255 verses, some in rhymes, others only partially rhyming while the rest are blank verses.

Thomas’ argument for yet another version or interpretation is that the voice of Omar Khayyam still speaks to us, “because we see in the quatrains our own unexpressed thoughts elegantly phrased”. In his foreword, Aminrazavi describes the quatrains by Benny Thomas as the “silence that makes music of the soul coherent to each”.

Khayyám’s quatrains must not be viewed “as a case for his adherence to Sufi tradition”, nor does the translator’s (that is FitzGerald), skepticism in the quatrains follow from not being true to the original, as Thomas explains. As a mystic he reads something else in them, or to paraphrase his own words: both Khayyám and FitzGerald are representative geniuses of our cultural heritage, who gave expression to the voice of their souls, the voice of their Inner Worlds.

The book was issued (as prints on demand) in three states: an illustrated paperback edition, a cheaper version without illustrations and an illustrated e-book. The illustrations were done by the translator. Available at Lulu.com.

Unfortunately, the work is not without errors. In the foreword (p. 7/9) we read: “Eight-hundred years after his death, the spirit and message of Omar Khayyám has once again celebrated in the exquisite quatrains …”. Many sentences are incomplete and for me, not being a mystic, some of the verses are almost impenetrable, for instance quatrain #158:

 The color that we swore upon with life
Is false hue drawn from lie engenders strife:
In death and all enfolding gloom our souls
Must reorient with what is true or life.

More about Benny Tomas’ translation can be found on his weblog: “The Rubaiyat“, which also shows a number of the artist’s illustrations.