The Great Omar Journal

GreatOmarJournalThe Peter Pauper Press, well known for a number of editions of the Rubáiyát, have now issued a so called Great Omar Journal, a notebook providing 192 blank, lightly-lined pages “for personal reflection and creative expression”. The covers are taken from the famous Sangorski & Sutcliffe binding.
A nice Christmas present for your loved ones, or just for fun.

Available from Peter Pauper Press
The price is: $15.99

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.

“The many sided Omar”

That was the title of a reading by Johnson Brigham before the Prairie Club of Des Moines, VedderIowa in 1924. The author explaines that “Omar Khayyám’s nature was profoundly religious, and as a pagan preacher of “righteousness, moderation and judgement to come,” he has a message to millions of our western world who profess and call themselves Christian and yet do not take their profession seriously.”

The title quoted above, could also be applied for the phenomenom of the large number of so called translations and interpretations in which the author(s) is question argue(s) that we have no proper understanding of what Omar really had to say, or that FitzGerald’s translation desperately needs revision. The readers of Omar generally take all this for granted but in some circles these elucidative views had and still have prophets and apostles.

Here we can think of, for instance, Sir Jean (John) George Tollemache Sinclair (1825-1912), who commented extensively on FitzGerald’s translation and pointed to the many flaws and shortcomings therein, in his privately published book Larmes et sourire (1912). And to stay in our days there is the commentary by Abdullah Dougan (1918-1987), who explains in his posthumously published book Who is the potter (1991) that those who have criticized FitzGerald’s translation, all missed the point “that FitzGerald was only an instrument for what Allah wanted to happen”, and that the sultan’s turret, caught in a noose of light, basically “symbolizes the male sex organ”.

I wonder if Omarian studies can be complete without a proper exploration of this hitherto disregarded and undemarcated territory. In a number of articles Bob Forrest took a closer look at some of these works, notably by Paramhansa Yogananda (The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam explained), Louis C. Alexander (The testament of Omar Khayyam) and dr. Otoman Zar-Adust Ha’nish (Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat).
These articles, titled “Omariana Eccentrica” part 1-3, are published now on my website, and hopefully, there will be more to follow.

 

The rose and the wine

RozenThough drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam, in classical Persian literature wine was a common subject for most authors and poets. The debate as a popular genre was often used to let forbidden objects or ideas, in this case the wine, present the pro’s and con’s and argue about their position in an Islamic society. A very popular theme was the debate between wine and a rose. In this highly interesting article, the author discusses a treatise by the thirteenth century author Muhammad  Zangī Bukhārī Gul u mul (“The Rose and the Wine”).
The form of the debate offers the poet an opportunity to list both the positive and the negative qualities of each of the objects, using citations from even the Qur’an and prophetic traditions. He also must exploit all possible traits so that the speaking object can defend itself and prove its superiority to its adversary.

The Rose and the Wine: Dispute as a Literary Device in Classical Persian Literature
Asghar Seyed-Gohrab
Iranian Studies, vol. 47 (2014), nr. 1, pp. 69-85
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00210862.2013.825506

Rose Bay Rubaiyat

Len Green recently published Rose Bay Rubaiyat, in which he highlights the history and rosebayrubaiyatbackground of Khayyám’s poetry. He also published some paraphrases, written by himself. The book Rose Bay Rubaiyat has been published not for profit, and with appropriate authorization it is currently available for sale in support of Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders.

The price of the book is AUD$22.00, and you can order it:
(a) by cheque or money order payable to: L. Green, C/O Robert Green PO Box 1151 Darlinghurst  NSW  1300 Australia.

(b) or visit: www.paypal.com.au and select “pay money”. Enter Green’s email address: lbzgreen@iprimus.com.au then email him at this address to advise payment. Don’t forget to include a postal destination.

The Great ‘Umar Khayyám

GreatUmarThe book The Great ’Umar Khayyam, which consists of 18 essays about Khayyam’s influence, shows that traces of Khayyam can be found throughout Western literature and culture. Dutch poets such as Leopold and Boutens were inspired by him, for instance, but the quatrains also made their mark in 20th century painting and music.

The volume is the result of a two days conference held in Leiden, July 2009, as part of a number of events that took place to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Edward FitzGerald’s first version of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám and the transaltor’s 200th birthday.

Published in 2012, there is a digital edition available now. Click here.

‘FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: Popularity and Neglect’

AnthemPressVolumeThis title from Anthem Press, edited by Adrian Poole, Christine van Ruymbeke, William H. Martin and Sandra Mason, was initially published in 2011, but is now available as Ebook.

The volume of essays is based on a conference held in July 2009 at Trinity College, Cambridge to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Edward FitzGerald (1809) and the 150th anniversary of the first publication of his ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ (1859). The ‘Rubáiyát’, loosely based on the verses attributed to the eleventh-century Persian writer, Omar Khayyám, has become one of the most widely known poems in the world, republished virtually every year from 1879 (the year of FitzGerald’s fourth edition) to the present day, and translated into over eighty different languages. And yet, with a few exceptions, it has been systematically ignored or at best patronized by the academic establishment. This volume sets out to explore the reasons for both the popularity and the neglect. Broadly speaking, the essays are divided into two main blocks. The first six chapters focus primarily on the poem’s literary qualities (including consideration of its place in the tradition of verse translation into English, the idea of ‘nothingness’, and ‘syntax and sexuality’), the last five on aspects of its reception (including essays on the late-Victorian Omar Khayyám Club, on American parodies, and on the many illustrated editions). They are linked by three essays that address key ‘facilitators’ in the poem’s transmission (including the significant but neglected issue of cheap reprints).

Click here for more information, and to order the book.