Molavi’s works interpreted differently in Iran, in the West: expert

Ahmad Tamimdari, professor of Persian language and literature, said that the famous 13th-century Iranian poet Molavi, known to the world for his translated works, namely those rendered by Coleman Barks, has nothing to do with the image that we Iranians have of him. .
In the Iranian calendar, September 30 marks the National Rumi Day of Remembrance.

Rumi, better known as Molavi in ​​Iran, is the author of a poetic collection of anecdotes and stories known as “Masnavi”, which is considered his magnum work, along with several other works. literary.

The following is an interview with Tamimdari conducted by Khabaronline on how Molavi, as the author of Masnavi, is known in Iran and how he is known to the world through his translated works, namely those translated by Coleman Barks .

How different is the “Rumi” presented to the world through Coleman Barks’ translations from the literary figure we Iranians know as “Molvavi”?

Tamimdari: Actually, these two have nothing to do with each other. Of course, several translators have rendered his works in other languages.

We can cite, for example, Arthur John Arberry. Another is Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, whose translations of Rumi’s works are the most famous and are easier to explain as he was an expert in the Arabic language and was familiar with Islamic and mystical concepts.

Anyone who wants to translate Rumi’s poets from one language to another must know Persian and Arabic, must be familiar with the Quran and hadiths, and must be familiar with the poets that preceded Rumi.

Arguably, Coleman Barks’ translation of Rumi’s works was just an indulgence.

Barks knew neither Persian nor Arabic. Moreover, in his translations, Barks omitted all Quranic verses and hadiths and added his own interpretation of Rumi’s poems.

I remember one of our teachers kept saying that Madonna had read Rumi’s poems! And we told her that Madonna was a poor singer, uneducated and unable to understand Rumi’s works. The reason is that mystical works are commonly referred to as the “second language”, which requires interpretation.

Even in our own country, the people who perform Masnavi are different. Some regard Masnavi as a deceptive book while others worship it as a second Quran. However, this is not the case with the famous Iranian poet Hafez. I believe this all emanates from the extent of the reader’s familiarity with the Quran and hadiths and understanding of Islamic knowledge.

In fact, Westerners mostly love to eat and that sort of thing and therefore have a superficial interpretation of Persian poetry.

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