In Search of Omar Khayyam (RLE Iran B)
By Ali Dashti
Translated by L P Elwell-Sutton
Routledge – 2011 – 276 pages
Series: Routledge Library Editions: Iran
Khayyam has been the subject of speculation on the part of literary critics ever since Edward Fitzgerald published his own version of the Rubaiyat in 1859. This edition represented the first opportunity to study in English the work of Khayyam by a Persian scholar.
There is no conclusive evidence to prove which of the many quatrains attributed to Khayyam are authentic. Ali Dashti therefore constructs a likeness of the poet from references found in the works of writers of his day or immediately after, and from Khayyam’s own works on philosophy, mathematics and astronomy, of which the authenticity is not questioned. Khayyam emerges as a widely read and broad-minded scholar, immersed in his own studies, cautious and moderate, averse to committing himself on controversial questions. Using this portrait Dashti draws up a list of some hundred quatrains which are in keeping with Khayyam’s character.
Selling point: An elegant and accurate translation which throws light on the nature of Khayyam’s religious and philosophical beliefs.
Contents: Introduction. Note on Transliteration. Preface to the Persian Second Edition. Part 1: In Search of Khayyam 1. Khayyam as Poet 2. Khayyam as Seen by his Contemporaries 3. Meanness or Common Sense? 4. Hero or Martyr? 5. A Dispute with a Prince 6. Khayyam from his own Writings 7. Khayyam and Sufism 8. Khayyam and Isma’ilism Part 2: In Search of the Quatrains 1. The Key Quatrains 2. The Axis of Life and Death 3. Khayyam’s Literary Style 4. Khayyam and his Imitators 5. Khayyam’s Wine-Poetry 6. Khayyam as Seen by the West 7. The Selected Quatrains 8. Some Khayyam-like Quatrains Part 3: Random Thoughts 1. ‘Whence we have come, and whither do we go?’ 2. ‘If it was bad, whose was the fault but His?’ 3. ‘A tiny gnat appears – and disappears’ 4. ‘The Withered Tulip Never Blooms Again’ 5. ‘Whether this Breath I take will be My Last.’ Appendix I: Biographical Notes. Appendix II: Glossary of Technical Terms. Bibliography. Index.
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