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am 7. Februar 2000
Coleman Barks has a way with words, which for the past few decades he's put to use casting the poems of 13th-century mystic Jalaluddin Rumi into contemporary language. Though considered one of the greatest poets the world has ever seen, Rumi was relatively unknown in the West until a recent surge in popularity due in no small part to Barks's efforts. THE ILLUMINATED RUMI presents readers with a pretty package indeed: deep thoughts, stirred emotions and illustrations galore. Yet while this would do most poets proud, it's doubtful Rumi would feel that way about his treatment at Barks's hands, if only because Barks speaks not a word of Persian, the language in which Rumi wrote. Barks freely admits he relied entirely on academic translations to concoct his popularized renderings. This would be less of a handicap were Rumi merely trying to entertain or to convey feelings, moods and subjective impressions. But as Barks himself points out, Rumi was a Sufi; and Sufis maintain that, far from being the emotional outpourings appearance might suggest, their poems are actually precise and carefully constructed technical instruments designed to have very specific effects on the reader under the right circumstances. These effects, which depend heavily upon the language in which the poems were written (not to mention the specific audience they were written for, which is another matter entirely), are easily blunted by translation and other forms of tampering. Barks - in translating translations - would seem to be carrying this tampering a step further, despite his good intentions. The result, however aesthetically pleasing and emotionally evocative, is unlikely to be what Rumi had in mind - any more than the miming of a surgeon's hand-movements, however gracefully executed, is likely to heal the sick. Those interested in Rumi's still-relevant message would do better to read THE SUFIS by Idries Shah, THE LIFE & WORK OF JALALUDDIN RUMI by Afzal Iqbal, or E.H. Whinfield's TEACHINGS OF RUMI.
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am 17. März 2000
This book obscures the bold spirit of Rumi with a facade of emotionally dominated wishful thinking. Rumi should challenge, confront, transport and dare the reader - but this book merely panders. The text is liberally sprinkled with irrelevancies and contains several interpolations, mistranslations and historical inaccuracies, indeed, blatant balderdash in a couple of places. The poetry is generally well rendered but is a pre-digested selection of the "soft bits" - the bones have been filleted out. One also gets the vague impression that the English language has been "dumbed down". The illustrations are well executed, except for the snapshot at the end, which is both irrelevant and uninteresting. This piece of self-indulgent drivel spoils an otherwise good collection of artwork. In summary, the reader will end up knowing more about Coleman Barks than about Rumi.
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