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.

 

 

 

Omar in Spanish-America

PeripheralIn “Otras inquisiciones, 1937-1952” (1952) the famous Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges published a short essay “El enigma de Edward FitzGerald”, in which he suggests that Omar might be reincarnated in Edward FitzGerald. In his earlier work “Inquisiciones” (1925) Borges also wrote a short essay called “Omar Jaiyám y FitzGerald” in which he refered to a translation to Spanish of a number of quatrains of Omar Khayyám by his father, Jorge Guillermo Borges (1874-1934). This reference to his father was left out in the later Inquisiciones of 1952.

Borges Jr.’s later essay may be familiar to the Omar devotees, but that his father was one of the first to translate Khayyám’s quatrains to Spanish is probably new to many of us. We learn more about early Spanish translations in a chapter “Omar Khayyam’s Epicureanism” by Axel Gasquet (Université de Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand), with the subtitle “The Spanish translations of Rubaiyats”. The author gives a brief summary of a number of translations published in Spanish-American countries. Here, and in the Phillipines twelve translations of the Rubáiyát were issued in twenty-six years. The first translation was by Juan Dublan (Mexico, 1904), followed by Gregorio Martinez Sierra (Madrid, 1907), and finally by Francisco Propata (Paris, 1930).

Four works are discussed more in detail: the versions by Dublan, Muzzio Sáenz-Peña, González and Bernabé. Gasquet describes the socio-cultural conditions of their time, and the sources of their work. He also shows how the hedonist-mystic debate played a role in these works.

Though the analysis is limited to only four translations, the chapter is rather interesting as it informs us about a number of translations that are not all in Potter, and that are probably unknown to many of our readers. One reason might be that these unknown translations were published in magazines or journals, or were part of anthologies.

The twelve translations that are refered to are:

  • DUBLAN, Juan. “Ruba’iyyat” de Omar Khayyam. Mexico, Caranza, 1904. (online at archive.org) (Potter 509)
  • SIERRA, Gregorio Martinez. Los Rubayata de Omar Khayyam de Naishapur. In: ‘Renacimiento’, March 1907, pp. 89-104 (Potter 510)
  • MUZZIO SÁENZ-PEÑA, Carlos. Rubaiyat de Omar-al-Khayyam. La Plata, Sesé, 1914.
  • CASTELLOT, José. Rubaiyat de Omar Khayyam. Prologo por Jose Juan Tablada. New York, [s.n.], 1918. (Potter 584)
  • BORGES, Jorge Guillermo. (Sixty-two quatrains). In: ‘Proa’, 1924. (A smaller number of quatrains was published in ‘Gran Guignol’, 1920.
  • EULATE SANJURJO, Carmela. Rubayyat. In: ‘Antología de poetas orientales’. Barcelona : Editorial Cervantes, 1921.
  • GUIRAO, Pedro. Omar Khayyam. Las mejores poesías (líricas) de los mejores poetas. XXXI. Barcelona, Cervantes, 1922 (Potter 517)
  • BERNABÉ, Manuel. Rubáiyát de Omar Khayyam. Manilla, Imp. de la Vanguardua, 1923.
  • GARCIA CALDÉRON, Ventura. Omar Kheyyam. Rubaiyat. San José de Costa Rica, El Convivio, 1925.
  • GONZÁLEZ, Joaquín V. Rubáiyát de Omar Khayyám. Buenos Aires, Roldán, 1926. (Potter 518)
  • PROPATO, Francisco. Ensayo crítico sobre Las Rubáiyát de Umar-i-Khayyám. Acompañado de la versión castellana y de notas. Paris, Bourdon, 1930.

Peripheral Transmodernities : South-to-South Intercultural Dialogues between the Luso-Hispanic World and “the Orient.” Ed. by Ignacio Lopez-Calvo. Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, c2012. ISBN 9781443837262.

Read about about this book on: http://ignaciolopezcalvo.blogspot.nl/2012/02/peripheral-transmodernities-south-to.html

A number of Borges’s rubaiyat can be found at: http://cronicasdeotros.blogspot.nl/2010/03/del-poema-de-omar-jaiyiam-omar-khayyam.html

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.

Two recent volumes reviewed

Dulac illustrationIn the recent issue of ‘Iranian Studies’, Erik Nakjavani, (Professor Emeritus of Humanities, University of Pittsburgh, USA) reviews and discusses two recent volumes on the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The first is Edward FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: A Famous Poem and its Influence, by William H. Martin and Sandra Mason (Anthem Press, 2011).
The reviewer discusses this work in respect of contemporary views about reception and assessment of poetry, by enthusiasts and devotees as well as scholars and academics. Some quatrains are quoted to illustrate ontological and metaphysical dimensions in the Rubáiyát, which turns this part of the review into a more or less philosophical essay.
Next Nakjavani reviews a second volume: Edward FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: Popularity and Neglect, edited by Adrian Poole, Christine van Ruymbeke, William H. Martin, and Sandra Mason (Anthem Press, 2011), in which he summarizes and discusses the separate essays. This volume contains the essays that were presented at a conference, held at the University of Cambridge, July 2009.
The reviewer judges the two volumes as “dual complementary works of scholarship, reflection, and academic research, in the strongest sense of the adjectives. Scholars, academics, literary critics, translators, and those who love poetry and share Khayyám’s and FitzGerald’s twofold concerns with the human lived experience of being and nonbeing will find these twin texts of much interest.”

Erick Nakjavani (2014) FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: Critical
Celebrations of a Beloved Poem, Iranian Studies, 47:4, 627-648, DOI: 10.1080/00210862.2014.906184

A Rubaiyat Archive

Illustration R. Bull

Illustration R. Bull

Recently, Bob Forrest set up a website to publish his extensive archive on the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. It contains, in Bob’s words: “extensive notes and appendices about all manner of Rubaiyat-related issues that caught my attention over time, and which therefore might well catch the attention of other students of FitzGerald’s masterpiece”. Apart from the main essay on FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát , there are notes on the first edition,, studies and contributions on Cowell, Browning, Tennyson and Wilde, on Epicureanism, religious eccentricities and the Christ myth, and comments on a number of artists and their illustrations.

Bob Forrest, retired teacher of maths, (Manchester, UK) published articles on the Rubáiyát and related matter in Omariana and in many other books and magazines. Visit his archive at: http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/index_of_the_rubaiyat_archive.htm

A Millennium of Persian Literature

OmarKhayyamThe Library of Congress opened an exhibition on March 29, titled “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book”. Purpose of the exibition is to take visitors on a visual journey of the rich literary history of Persian language, and to explore works of religion, science, modern literature, children’s books, women’s literature and the highly illustrated masterpieces of classical poetry for which Persian literature is most famous.

“The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it,” Khayyám wrote in “Rubaiyat,” a work that centuries later still would inspire artists from Eugene O’Neill to Agatha Christie, from Woody Guthrie to Van Morrison.

Read more in the Library of Congress Blog: http://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2014/03/a-millennium-of-persian-literature/?loclr=fbloc

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.

Secular pleasures

Victorian Poetry published a very interesting essay in their latest issue, by Ayşe Çelīkkol, titled ‘Secular Pleasures and FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám‘. Pleasure
The author starts from the point of view that FitzGerald’s poem “imagines a secular experience that resists the reign of reason. Musing on transcendental matters cannot help the speaker to make sense of his own existence, but neither can rational inquiry. (…) he relates to the material world around him by seeking and embracing pleasure. Through the senses of wonder, connectedness, and enchantment inspired by the self’s engagement with the natural world, FitzGerald transfers some of the most fulfilling aspects of religion onto a secular experience.”
The essays then goes on to demonstrate how this idea is an “articulation of  some of the insights that have come to inform the critical study of the secular today”.

Secular Pleasures and FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. By Ayşe Çelīkkol.
Victorian poetry, vol. 51 (2013), nr. 4, (winter), pp. 511-522.
DOI: 10.1353/vp.2013.0029 (Abstract, project MUSE)

Khayyam exhibition in Tehran

Only a few days are left to hurry down to Tehran for an exhibition of calligraphy works of Khayyám’s poems  in the University of Tehran.  The collection which includes Khayyam Latin calligraphy was created by the Iranian calligrapher Mojtaba Karami who has vast experiences in the art. Some 30 works of the artist have been displayed at the exhibition, depicting some selected poems of Khayyam’s famous quatrains in ten different languages.

The exhibition started Sunday, February 16, and will run until February 19, at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tehran.

From: Press TV, February 17, 2014

A tribute to Omar

The tribute was organised by the Pakistan-Norway Association (PANA) on February 1, this year, with a buffet, a fruit drink and a lecture by a Central Asian expert on Khayyam and poet Prof. Aftab Kazi.

KhayyamQuatrains from Khayyam’s poetry were performed by Opera singer Lynly Butt and the film on the life and times of Khayyam “The Keeper — The Legend of Khayyam” was screened. However, in Professor Kazi´s view “the directors and producers commercialise and distort the history.”

Read more about the event in The Express Tribune of February 3, 2014.