Home Books American translations of Rumi’s works are obscure: Farrukh Dhondy

American translations of Rumi’s works are obscure: Farrukh Dhondy


For author and playwright Farrukh Dhondy, discovering Rumi, like it’s for everybody else, was a second of revelation. “I never knew him but the family had copies of his translations of Omar Khayyam,” he says, including, “I became aware that he had translated several Persian poets among them Rumi.” Dhondy’s newest work, Rumi: A New Collection, is a set of translations, which he calls “an ocean of verse”.

When Farrukh first learn Rumi, it was on an extended flight. “The only writer in my family or among my ancestors was my great grandfather Jamshedji Saklatwala. I became aware that Khayyam had translated several Persian poets among them Rumi, though the family only had a surviving copy of his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I had read no Rumi till a friend gave me a book of Rumi translations to occupy me on a flight to Australia. I settled into the flight and started to read. The verses were obscure, without rhyme or rhythm and full of mixed metaphors, contemporary American idiom which rendered them clumsy and weren’t satisfactory, in any sense, as poetry.” This made him put the e book apart and watch a movie as an alternative, he quips.

The creator provides that it’s not shocking that the poet’s works have survived for hundreds of years. “His Masnavi (a poem) is known as the ‘Koran in verse’ and wherever the ‘Sufi’ tradition survives, his work does,” says Dhondy. The creator provides that within the American translations of his work, one can simply spot pretentious spirituality that the world is at the moment obsessive about. He says, “The American translations that I have read are, with gobbledegook syntax, their mixed metaphors and the complete absence of the felicity of Rumi’s rhythmic and rhyming poetry open to ridicule and caricature. In fact they caricature themselves.”

He provides, “The Sufi idea of ‘love’ in all his verses, is a love of God, a passion for the ultimate spirit and not a hankering lust for a wished for or achieved mortal partner. There are certainly instances in which Rumi uses human love and sex as a pathway to the ultimate ‘love’ celebrated in his work. To mistake the metaphor for the end is idiotic, if not sacrilege.”

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