Barks, suffering from a particularly profitable case of researcher’s blindness, has flooded the market with a Rumi that has come to symbolize the individual beholden to no particular tradition, a man who seeks love before God or faith, all too familiar already in the canon of English, specifically American, literature. The result is a New Age poet, devoid of Islam, the 13th century, or the themes and images of the golden age of classical Persian poetry.
Writing “nation” on the body of Persian literature participates in the erasure of dynamic and ongoing conversations on genre, form, and style that have shaped the contours of this literary tradition across a vast geography that in the premodern world stretched from Anatolia to the Bay of Bengal. What does it mean to imagine Persian literature as a “national canon” even today?
Translation can be characterized as an interplay between literary traditions, a process that illuminates the difference in approaches to and articulation of poeticity. Consequently, linguistic and cultural challenges arise that need to be addressed by the translator regardless of his or her approach to translation. The Persian literary tradition presents unique challenges that are particularly well-revealed in the ghazaliyyāt of Hafez of Shiraz, a poet who is widely read in Persianate societies. Poets and scholars alike have expressed the difficulty of translating Hafez.
Focusing on the city of Shiraz, Setrag Manoukian’s City of Knowledge examines why it has emerged as a place so saturated with national significance, the techniques used to achieve this, and just how fraught this process continues to be.
The Conference of the Birds by the 12th century Sufi poet ‘Attar is hands down my favorite Persian epic poem. ‘Attar’s sweeping tale relates the story of a flock of…