The Conference of the Birds

This is extraordinarily beautiful and surprisingly gripping. Translated by a bilingual poet who made the wise decision to sacrifice the rhyme to keep the essences of the story, it sings.

As Sholeh Wolpé says, translating medieval Persian into modern English can only work well with some letting go of form. She describes it as the reflection of the sky in the sea – the image has a different substance and moves in a totally different way. Her introduction is incisive:

 

ConferenceBirdsWolpéIntro.jpeg

 

This mystical journey of the soul to oneness with the divine is told with humour and deftness. Much more fun than Pilgrim’s Progress.

 

ConferenceBirdsPrincessBeggar.jpeg

As a European Christian reader it was fascinating to see familiar stories of Joseph and his brothers, Jonah and the whale, or Jesus and the needle (bet you didn’t know that one) through Islamic Sufi eyes. The being drunk with love and longing for the divine reminded me of Dominican spirituality: Catherine of Siena and Meister Eckhart.

 

ConferenceBirdsRing

The author, Attar, was a 12th century Persian mystic who inspired the great Rumi.

 

This is the sort of book that is really worth getting in physical hard copy so you can share it with others. I will also return to it again and again, and I’m sure I will find something new every time.  As Attar says in his in his opening verses, “they are like beauty under a veil / that reveals its loveliness slowly.” 

 

The image is from The Many Flavors of Sufism essay by Katherine Seidel, in Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook

 

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in books, faith, history, poetry, translation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

advent Alice in Wonderland American And Other Stories Antonia Lloyd-Jones Arabic Argentina Barańczak Beowulf Best Translated Book Award Bible books Brazil Brazilian Portuguese British British Library Buddhism Central Europe Children's Books Children's literature Chinese Christmas Christmas Carols Clare Cavanagh Clarice Lispector Contemporary Czesław Miłosz Dari Edinburgh Festival English Estonian Facebook Fantasy Farsi Fiction Finland Finland 100 Finnish Flemish Free Word Centre French friends gender George Szirtes German Greek Hebrew Herbert Lomas Herta Müller history Hobbit Hungarian Idioms Illustration international International Translation Day Italian J. R. R. Tolkien Japanese Jenny Erpenbeck Jewish Johanna Sinisalo Korean Language language learning Languages Latin left-handed Literature Lola Rogers Lord of the Rings Mabinogion Man Booker International Prize Maori Maria Turtschaninoff Mirkka Rekola Moomins New Year Nobel Prize Old English Oxford English Dictionary PEN Translation Prize Persian Philip Boehm Phoneme Media Pippi Longstocking Poetry Poetry Translation Centre Polish Portuguese pubilc libraries Queer Roald Dahl Romanian Rosa Liksom Russian Ryszard Kapuściński Salla Simukka Seamus Heaney Shakespeare Short Stories Slovene Spanish Stanisław Barańczak Susan Bernofsky Svetlana Alexievich Swedish Switzerland Terhi Ekebom Thomas Teal Tibetan Tove Jansson Translation translator Translators Without Borders Turkey Valentine's Day Wales Warsaw Welsh Wisława Szymborska Witold Szabłowski Women in Translation Month words Words without Borders

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow found in translation on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: