NABOKV-L post 0014450, Thu, 21 Dec 2006 11:33:13 -0500

Khayam in translation
CHW: " What is the purpose of art, and by what yardstick is its excellence to be measured? It is of course extremely valuable to have an informed and judicious opinion from someone who has a fluent mastery of both Persian and English... Just for fun, I put Omar Khayyam into abebooks’ keyword, and the site came up with over 8300 items. I can’t help surmising that but for FitzGerald there would have been less than 100."

JM to CHW: The yardstick of excellence shouldn't be a product of loose statistics. Besides, there are other translations that are not dependent of Fitzgerald's inspired poems.
My first reading didn't come from a translation from OK's Persian quatrains [that's what Rubai, singular and Rubaiyát, plural, mean] but from a collection mainly selected from the French. Octavio T. de Souza quoted: Grolleau, J. Carpentier, Jules Marthold, Edmond Dulac, Claude Anet, Mirza Muhammad and Franz Toussaint.
The second collection I read from the Omar Iben Ibrahim El-Khaiami quatrains came from the Persian. There are no manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Impériale, in Paris, nor in the India House. There is one in England, Ouseley MSS at the Bodleian Library ( written in Shiraz, 1460 AD) with only 158 Rubáiyát. In Calcutta, at the Asiatic Society, there is an incomplete copy with 516 Rubaiyát and a rare edition, from 1836, in Calcutta that consists of 438 Rubaiyát in the main text and 54 in the Appendix.
The Brazilian scholar thinks that the information given by Ali nô-Rouze, from the Imperial Delegation of Persia in Cairo, is incorrect ( Mr. nô-Rouze found only 170 Rubaiyát) In the XVII century Khaiami was quoted by B. d' Herbelot, by Thomas Hyde in 1700. In English we find Edward Haren, Denison Ross, Hallen, Whinfield, Hirson and Richard Legallienne. 25 Rubaiyát were translated into German by Hammar Purgstal. Valentim Zhukovski translated some into Russian, and there is a long list of translators for the Turkish, Arabian, Lebanese, Egyptian, e Hebraic languages.

Jansy Mello

Search the archive:
Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies: