Friday, January 30, 2009

From "Religion Dispatches" - Translating Rumi

Coleman Barks, Rumi's most popular "translator" in the USA, can neither read nor speak Farsi. Being a poet himself, Barks “re-Englishes” existing translations, releasing, in his own words, “the fire and ecstasy of Rumi’s ghazals” from the stale confines of their scholarly translations.

It doesn't make his critics happy! Read Ryan Croker explaining why they are wrong here.

Barks is also known from his very emotive letter sent in 2003 to President Bush, in which he called for sending translators and peace activists to Iraq instead of bombs: "Now imagine some other way to do it. Quadruple the inspectors, or put a thousand and one U.N. people in. Then call for peace activists to volunteer to go to Iraq for two weeks each. Flood that country with well-meaning tourists, people curious about the land that produced the great saints, Gilani, Hallaj, and Rabia. Set up hostels near those tombs. Encourage peace people to spend a bunch of money in shops, to bring rugs home and samovars by the bushel. Send an Arabic translator with every four peace activists. The U.S. government will pay for the translators and for building and staffing the hostels, one hostel for every twenty activists and five translators. The hostels are state of the art, and they belong to the Iraqis at the end of this experiment. "

You can listen to a sample of Barks "translations" of Rumi's 'What Was Said To the Rose' here

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