Michael Skau, emeritus professor with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, recently published an article in the Journal of Popular Culture titled: “Jack Kerouac’s Rubáiyát: The Influence of Omar Khayyám” (vol. 48, No. 3, 2015).
Almost all of the Kerouac studies have ignored the influence of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát in his life and work. The Rubáiyát provides significant similarities to Kerouac’s dualistic viewpoint: “the extremes of innocent indulgence of the beautiful variety of life and bitter, or even perverse, acceptance of the desolation of mortal existence”. The author, expert in ‘Beat poetry’ (Corso, Ferlinghetti, Burroughs, Ginsberg) points to numerous allusions to and echoes from Khayyám’s poetry, not only in On the road but in his other novels, essays and letters as well.
In a letter to Stella Sampas, his third wife, he writes: “When I’m an old man I’ll at least have my jug of wine and a loaf of bread too”. Another example of how Kerouac looks upon life is his lament on this world “which made us, but only imperfectly, that is to say unsuited to its every barb and to most of its insuitable commandments […] I never asked to be made, and so unsuited born”. To the reader this almost immediately brings to mind the book of pots . Skau’s conclusion:
For Kerouac and FitzGerald, the intertwining of delight and sadness, of happiness and dreariness, cannot be denied. Both writers find that the approach toward life is one of bright melancholy, a mournful smile, a reminder that the rose is both flower and thorns. They cannot deny the twin poles of human experience, a “triste Plaisir” that continues to resonate with their readers.
Skau’s nice and very well readable article is an almost inescapable invitation to get back On the Road again for a new experience.
Jaarboek 7. 25 jaar Genootschap is now published, as always by Avalon Pers, Woubrugge. The book contains a number of shorter articles in which the members of the Club look back onto their membership. Jos Biegstraaten, president from 1990 till 2014, presents a short history of the Society. Hans de Bruijn ponders on the eternal and unanswered questions surrounding the origins of the rubáiyát. Jos Coumans explains how and why he started to collect the editions of the rubáiyát. For Marco Goud the exploration of life and work of the Dutch poet P.C. Boutens leads to confrontations with Khayyám’s influence on Boutens’ work he cannot evade. Rokus de Groot first encountered Khayyám’s poetry in the leather workshop of Stavros Melissinos in Athens, who presented him with a signed copy of his ‘Persian Rubáiyát’. Johan ter Haar is fascinated by the diversity of interpretations of Khayyám’s poetry that range from pure mysticism to sheer nihilism, and Remi Hauman looks at the rubáiyát as a collective, national oeuvre by various Persian ghostwriters, with international dimensions. For Dirk Meursing the Society was a useful and joyful resource while working on his own translation, and Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, now president, remembers how in his youth in Tehran he was fascinated by the secrets and mysteries that Khayyám’s verses seemed to conjure. Jos Biegstraaten finally describes how Khayyám influenced the work of the Dutch graphic artist Siep van den Berg.
The book is illuminated with a number of colour illustrations by various artists. It was printed in various states, in soft and hardbound copies, and was issued on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Dutch Omar Khayyám Society. Copies are available from Avalon Pers, Woubrugge, at € 45,00.
A short video clip was made of the exhibition at the Sufi Masters of Love conference, held June 13th, 2015. (See the previous post on this topic). On display was a selection of sufi oriented translations of and commentaries on the Rubáiyát, together with a number of FitzGerald’s versions of his translation.
Sufi Masters of Love exhibition from Jos Coumans on Vimeo.
At the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dutch Omar Khayyám Society, May 30, 2015 the club members were kindly requested to pose before the camera.
From left to right: Jos Coumans, Hans de Bruijn, Marco Goud, Dirk Meursing, Jos Biegstraaten, Gabrielle van den Berg, Johan ter Haar, Jan Keijser, Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, Rokus de Groot, Remi Hauman.
A new issue of the Jaarboek / Year book was presented, which is proudly shown here by Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, president of the Society.
The ‘Nederlands Omar Khayyám Genootschap’, or Dutch Omar Khayyám Society, was founded in 1990 by four enthusiasts to share their love and interest in Omar. Initiated by Jos Biegstraaten, the Society was set up to gather, discuss, share and distribute knowledge and relevant information on all sorts of Khayyám related facts, findings and opinions.
Soon after that the first Yearbook was published, in 1992, and others followed, with an irregular interval of about four years. The latest issue is a special on the occasion of the 25th anniversary, containing short essays in which the members reflect on their membership and their relation to Omar Khayyám.
Over the years members have been in contact with Omarians from all over the world. A special occasion for meetings and discussions was the congress held in July 2009 in Leiden and Cambridge, and musical festivities in Amsterdam, in which the Society played an active role. Another event that attracted attention was an exhibition in Museum Meermanno, in 2009, highlighting the most important editions of FitzGerald’s translation representing developments in book publishing, typography and illustration.
The 25th anniversary will be celebrated Saturday, May 30, in Leiden, with a small congress for members and guests and a dinner. The program lists a reading on Omar Khayyám and Kavafis, by Michiel Leezenberg, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Amsterdam.
The Rosicrucian Foundation in The Netherlands will organize a symposium on the poetry and lyrics of Hafiz, Rumi and Khayyám. The meeting is part of a series to investigate the great oriental movements of wisdom and philosophy.
The delicate Persian lyrics still exert a specific attraction to us. Persian poetry, music and wisdom spread over the continents from China to the West when our ancestors still went at each other with prongs and forks.
Some of the subjects that will be discussed are stories and music about Layla and Majnun, about Rumi, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, Mirabai, but also Krishna and Jesus. There will also be a small exhibition on Khayyám’s Rubáiyát, showing a number of mystical and sufi interpretations of his verses.
For more information (in Dutch) see: Soefi-meesters van de Liefde: Rumi en Hafez.
The event will take place on June 13, 2016 in Bilthoven, The Netherlands.
One of the early illustrators of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was Gilbert James (1865-1941). His work can be found in numerous editions and reprints of The Rubáiyat, and a number of his illustrations have been issued as post cards as well. Although this indicates that his work was rather popular in his days, very little is known about the artist himself.
In a recently published document however, Bob Forrest reports the findings of his research into the artist and his work, particularly his Rubáiyát illustrations. They appeared for the first time in a magazine ‘The Sketch’ (1896) and in book form in 1898, published by Smithers (1898) as Fourteen Drawings illustrating Edward FitzGerald’s Translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
This highly important document is available on Bob Forrest’s website: http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Gilbert_James/Gilbert_James.htm
The new website called Concordances of the Rubáiyát, is a project I have been working on for a couple of years. The website presents the quatrains from the Bodleian manuscript of the Rubáiyát that FitzGerald used for his famous translation. Together with the Persian text, taken from Heron-Allen’s edition of 1898, a number of corresponding translations is listed underneath each quatrain.
You will also find a number of (sortable) tables of corresponding quatrains, based on the tables in studies and publications by Anet (1957), Arberry (1949 and 1952), Heron-Allen (1898), Thompson (1906) and Tirtha (1941). More tables will follow.
Finally there is a list of translations from a number of authors whose quatrains have a correspondence to the Bodleian manuscript.
Work on the project is still in progress, and I would highly appreciate to receive comments, corrections and suggestions.
Philip Bishop, bibliographer and rare book specialist, published a number of shorter essays on special bindings of the Rubáiyát that were published by Thomas B. Mosher. One of the bindings is by Hans Asper, the other by George Bayntun. The essays are available on Bishop’s Mosher Press website: http://thomasbirdmosher.net/index1.html.
The direct links to the essays are
http://thomasbirdmosher.net/files/hans-asper-binding.pdf, for the Asper binding, and
http://thomasbirdmosher.net/files/acquisitions-since-endpapers.pdf for the Bayntun binding essay.
Phil Bishop also published a large bibliographic volume on the Mosher Press editions, which includes of course the many rubáiyáts of Omar Khayyám.
St Michael and All Angels’ Church
Part of the global celebration of the United Nations 2015 Year of the Light is a reading of the ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ in the translation of Edward FitzGerald, by Charles Mugleston. The event will take place Sunday 3rd May at 3.00pm in St Michael and All Angels Church, Boulge, Suffolk.
Grave of Edward FitzGerald
Those who plan to attend the reading may also pay a visit to the churchyard where FitzGerald’s grave can be found.