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    The New Yorker | Rozina Ali | 1/5/17 | 14 min
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    The New Yorker
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    • deephdave
      Top reader this weekReading streakScout
      4 months ago

      One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love.

    • turtlebubble
      4 months ago

      Really interesting. Seems like the Barks versions are more similar to cover songs than translations. It’s embarrassing to be attributing quotes to a historical figure that are twice digested. The end product is beautiful and clearly hugely popular and significant but should maybe more correctly be attributed to Barks as inspired by Rumi. That way a reader could delve more deeply into the real Rumi if they felt so inclined, tracing back through the interpretations to create a more full understanding.

      • bill
        Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
        4 months ago

        I like reading old stuff and I don't mind that it's been warped and mauled by the time it gets to me. I practically expect it. But yeah, I see where you're coming from on this:

        It’s embarrassing to be attributing quotes to a historical figure that are twice digested.

        Careful attribution. That's a big takeaway.

        Also, a few weeks ago, in an email, I mixed up Rumi with Kahlil Gibran, who died in 1931. Can't keep any of this shit straight.

    • bill
      Top reader of all timeScoutScribe
      4 months ago

      Rumi has been following me around for several years now. For a while, I traveled with a piece of driftwood that had some of these words burned into it:

      The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. / Don’t go back to sleep. / You must ask for what you really want. / Don’t go back to sleep. / People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. / The door is round and open. / Don’t go back to sleep.

      These days, locked-down, one of the books I treasure is a Barks-translated book of Rumi poetry that I've been reading ~3-4 times a week. The introductions in the book are solid. They make it very clear that the entire volume is an artistic interpretation. It's unfortunate that when things move from East to West (or old to new) they get watered down. The loss of religious essence is a real loss, but I have personally experienced the poetry to be spiritually ecstatic.

      Perhaps Barks should just publish as Barks. Then again, that would be a gnarly form of plagiarism. Along those lines, my favorite poem of 2019 (which was published in 2008) is a verse translation from the Japanese of a short selection from the notebooks of Chiri, Basho's traveling companion. The "author," Eric Ekstrand, has published several of these. (Are they his words?) It didn't occur to me that such a practice was anything except legit, but when I showed these poems to my brother he was like, "I don't know if I'm cool with that." So there you have it.

      It's inherently problematic (and inherently beautiful) to take old stuff and make it new again. __

      P.S. The Barks-Rumi book I've been reading has an entire section of "Rough Metaphors," which I find fascinating, hilarious and interesting. And since everybody is plagiarizing everybody, I'm just going to steal this entire paragraph so you can get the gist:

      Some of Rumi's metaphors are rough, raw, and unacceptable to refined tastes. When Reynold Nicholson translated the Mathnawi into English in the 1920s, he chose to render some passages into Latin, supposing that anyone who knew enough Latin to read them would be properly shielded from taint. Rumi uses anything human beings do, no matter how scandalous or cruel or silly, as a lens to examine soul growth. A gourd-crafter to serve as a flange, allowing a donkey's penis to enter a woman's vagina just to the point of her pleasure but not far enough to harm her, becomes a metaphor for a device a sheikh might use to put limits on a disciple. After another graphic, outrageously elaborate comparison of breadmaking to lovemaking he concludes, "Remember. The way you make love is the way God will be with you." For Rumi, the bread of every experience offers nourishment.