New editions

Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Introduction and notes by Robert D. Richardson; original art by Lincoln Perry. New York, Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781620406564
The mystic Rubáiyát. [Illustrated by Penelope Cline]. Fig Tree Press, 2016.
75 tarot cards.
The quatrains of Omar Khayyam. Translated from the Persian by Joobin Bekhrad. Bloomington, Balboa Press, 2016. ISBN 9781504362542
The Rubáiyát. Along the Red Book Road.Quatrains of Omar Khayyám rendered into English verse by Edward FitzGerald. Introduction by Louis Untermeyer. Paintings by Linda Carter Holman. Oregon House, Red Shoe Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9780976973225.
John Morris-Jones: Penillion Omar Khayyâm. Golygwyd Dafydd Glyn Jones. Bangor, Dalen Newydd, 2015. ISBN 9780993251016

 

New books

Two new titles have been published recently:

Rubá’iyát of Hakim ‘Umar Khayyám. Selected quatrains of Khayyám. Translated into simple Solati Cover 2015English with spiritual interpretation. Edited and translated by Bahman Solati. Boca Raton, Universal-publishers, 2015. 109 pp. ISBN: 978-1-62734-033-5.

In this edition 60 quatrains are literally translated and presented with a spiritual explanation and with the Persian text of the quatrains. The introduction (20 pages) highlights the most important facts, features and history of Khayyám’s rubáiyat. Solati published a number of studies on Hafez, as well as on the impact of Sufism on post-Islamic Persian literature.

The 108 quatrains of Omar Khayyam. Persian – English – Chinese. [Selection and translation] Sen Du 108 quatrainsDu. Litfire Publishing, 2015. 148 pp. ISBN: 978-1-942296-75-1.

This is a somewhat remarkble edition, as it not only presents the quatrains in English, Persian and Chinese, the verses are also classified by subject matter in ten sections. Each quatrain has a title and for each one a rhyme pattern is given for the Persian text. These patterns are collated in a table at the end of the book. The Introduction and the Notes are partially in English and Chinese, whereas the Notes are composed from ‘copy-pasted’ fragments from various older editions and studies, which results in a somewhat cluttered impression. To fully enjoy this edition the reader needs to understand the Chinese language.

Khayyaamism

Kaviani Cover 2014In a recent volume Khodadad Kaviani, associate professor at Central Wahington University, defines Khayyaamism as “a particular worldview that (l) questions the legitimacy of religious practices and beliefs that are contrary to reason; (2) views death as part of life; (3) promotes the enjoyment of life here and now; (4) values camaraderie and friendship; and (5) expresses ideas in short poems.” As a young man, Kaviani left his country in 1979, and had to find his way in the USA. Reading Iranian poetry helped him to stay in touch with his cultural roots, and in Khayyaamism, he would find advice on “how to be a friend, what to do with money, why religion is not all that’s cracked up to be, and much more.”

Khayyám’s short poems may serve as a vehicle for readers to take a more critical view of issues and values that each new generation has to discover and to discuss. In order to do so, Kaviani provides a method to study the quatrains. Each verse is given in Persian, followed by a translation into English. Next, under the headings “Conversation starter” and “Dig deeper” a varying number of questions is posed for the reader to answer.

In this respect, it is irrelevant to dwell on the question whether Khayyám did really write these verses, “because his poetry represents a way of thinking about life (…), a worldview that opposes religious control over people’s lives and promotes living a full life here and now, in a simple  way that brings joy to the person and others.”

Although the methodical approach may seem a bit schoolmasterish (there is a chapter “Note to teachers” with rather strict instructions), it is a brave attempt to make our troubled world a better place to be.

Rethinking khayyaamism. His controversial poems and vision. Khodadad Kaviani. Lanham etc., Hamilton Books, 2014. xii, 131 p. ISBN: 9780761864066.

A new French translation

Mercier Quatrains CoverFrench novelist and essayist Renaud Mercier published a versified adaptation of the quatrains from the Bodleian manuscipt, based on the edition by Edward Heron-Allen of 1898.  In a short introduction the translator explains why the rhyme scheme has been altered to AABB, which means that there is no ‘free’ third line, as not to discomfort French ears.

The booklet is printed on demand, and is also available as a Kindle e-book, from Amazon.

Les quatrains d’Omar Khayyam (adaptation versifiée). Renaud Mercier. 2014.
72 p. ISBN: 9781494315399

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.

 

 

 

The Rubáiyát in Afrikaans

Hugo RoebaijatA new translation of the Rubáiyát into Afrikaans was recently published in Pretoria, South Africa, by Proteia Boekhuis. Daniel Hugo, poet and critic, selected fifty quatrains from FitzGerald’s version, which he declares essential, the rest being reiterations. Long ago Hugo was struck by the translation of the Dutch poet J.H. Leopold, when he was a student. Now, forty years later, this resulted in a new publication called Die roebaijat van Omar Khajjam. 50 kwatryne vertaal deur Daniel Hugo.

Today we know of six translations in Afrikaans:

  • Die Rubáiyát van Omar Khayyám. Volgens die Engelse bewerking van Edward FitzGerald in Afrikaans oorgesit deur C.J. Langenhoven. [Kaapstad, Nasionale Pers Beperk, 1923]. (Also in: Die pad van Suid-Afrika, 1933).
  • Rubaijat van Omar Khajjam. Charles Herman Bosman. Kaapstad, Colin Reed-McDonald, 1948.
  • ‘Verse van die tentmaker, Omar, die Persiese digter’. C. Louis Leipoldt. In: Geseënde skaduwees. Johannesburg, Afrikaanse Pers-boekhandel, 1949.
  • Die onherwinbare hede. Ruba’ijat van Omar Chajjam. Verwerk door A. H. Jonker. Kaapstad, Juta & Kie., 1950.
  • Antwoord aan Omar Khayyám, met Vertaling van die Rubaiyat deur D.B. van Soelen. Pretoria, Unie-Boekhandel, 1965.
  • Rubáiyát van Omar Khayyám. Sebastiaan Basson. Rayton, Woordewinkel, 1994. ISBN 0620208589.

Listen to the interview with Daniel Hugo on the weekly RSG programme Vers en Klank  
The introduction (in Afrikaans) is also available at Neder-L, elektronisch tijdschrift voor de Nederlandistiek.

Die roebaijat van Omar Khajjam. 50 kwatryne vertaal deur Daniel Hugo, Protea Boekhuis, Pretoria, 2014, 80 pp., ISBN (gedrukte boek): 978-1-4853-0086-1, ISBN (e-boek): 978-1-4853-123-3.

The Rubáiyát for students of Persian literature

AmouzgarCoverKuros Amouzgar, educated as an engineer and living in the USA, translated the Persian text of Furughi and Ghani’s edition of the Rubáiyát, to help his children’s generation enjoy their Persian literary heritage. These children of Iranians living outside their homeland, often lack knowledge and understanding of the Persian language and literature. Khayyám is one of the most famous and well known Persian poets and his verses are easier to comprehend and to translate than other Persian poets.
This edition has the Persian text as well as a transliteration into Latin, a literal translation and a selection of 39 quatrains from FitzGerald’s version. Also included are notes on the verses and a glossary of Persian words in the text.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for students of Persian literature. 178 quatrains rendered phonetically in the original Persian and a literal English translation by Kuros Amouzgar. Bethesda, Ibex Publishers, 2012. 233 p. ISBN 978-1-58814-083-8.

Omar and the Victorians

Juan Ricardo Cole (1952), who describes himself as a public intellectual, prominent Skull Sullivanblogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, recently translated a large number of quatrains from Whinfield (1883). Many of these were published in his weblog as separate posts, see: http://www.juancole.com/?s=khayyam

In a recent article Rescuing Omar Khayyam from the Victorians  (Michigan Quarterly Review, vol 52, nr.2) (Abstract) Cole explains his translations by stating that “Fitzgerald’s verses are often lovely and memorable and are justly celebrated. But each generation deserves new translations of the classics. What would happen if we put the Persian instead into contemporary idiomatic English? What if we removed the distancing language and spoke of being in a bar instead of “frequenting a tavern”?”

Here is an example of what that looks like:

Since no one can trust
     in tomorrow,
        find a way to fill
this grieving heart
     with joy.
Drink up in the light of the moon –
     a moon that someday
            will look for us
and not find us.

In the parallel quatrain, FitzGerald, (1859, nr. 74) “neglects to mention the poet’s inconsolable broken heart or resort to wine to dull the pain”, as Cole notes, for not finding “the now-deceased revelers” in the light of the moon that keeps on shining when we all are gone.

In his article Cole gives a few more arguments for a new translation. One is that “the poems attributed to Khayyam are in a simple, direct, irreverent, and bawdy language”. That doesn’t imply, I trust, that we also need hiphop versions of  Alle Menschen werden Brüder or a comic version of the Nightwatch.

I feel that Cole has a point though, and of course, some of FitzGerald’s renderings are mysterious and hard to grasp, but that is part of the magic. Surely we can live on water and bread, but we want something on it.