The Book of Rumi: 105 Sto­ries and Fables that Il­lu­mine, De­light, and In­form

Rumi, Maryam Mafi (Trans­la­tor) Hamp­ton Roads Pub­lish­ing (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $16.95 (208pp), 978-1-57174-746-4

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction / Nonfiction - KAREN RIGBY

Maryam Mafi’s lu­mi­nous trans­la­tion brings the Per­sian poet Rumi’s dis­tinc­tive and time­less Sufi lessons to a new au­di­ence, trans­form­ing the orig­i­nal verses into prose that con­veys the vi­brancy of the me­dieval set­ting while also sound­ing fresh.

Pop­u­lated with fools and wise men, the re­gal and en­slaved, prophets and un­be­liev­ers, these hom­i­lies, para­bles, and por­traits ex­plore faith in God and hu­man re­la­tion­ships with un­usual in­sight. Their sim­plic­ity, rather than seem­ing di­luted, re­veals a ta­lent for cut­ting to the essence of high and low sub­jects. El­e­ments of Ae­sop’s bes­tiary min­gle with tales in­spired by the Qu­ran and ev­ery­day life. Je­sus of Nazareth ap­pears along­side un­named dervishes. From the plau­si­ble to the al­le­gor­i­cal, Rumi’s en­coun­ters pro­vide morals that are some­times clearly stated and some­times cloaked in mys­tery, but of­ten con­nected to the war be­tween the flesh and the spirit.

Whether con­sid­er­ing chick­peas along­side hu­mans who ques­tion their place, or mis­guided pity and im­pu­dence in a man who as­sumes that a fire­wood gath­erer needs his char­ity, Rumi re­veals his char­ac­ters’ pride in their own worth. No mat­ter how fa­mil­iar his themes are—the power of words to harm and heal, the folly in get­ting a fool to change his ways—they are re­worked into mem­o­rable sce­nar­ios. Nar­guess Farzad, in a use­ful fore­word that pro­vides his­tor­i­cal back­ground, makes a con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment for Rumi’s con­tin­u­ing value in mod­ern so­ci­ety.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that sev­eral sto­ries re­peat ideas, though in dif­fer­ent, col­or­ful guises. Time and again Rumi urges his read­ers to find wis­dom by look­ing be­yond the su­per­fi­cial de­tails of busi­ness deal­ings, ro­mance, and neigh­borly en­coun­ters. When a dervish de­clares that “the signs of the Beloved … are im­printed on one’s heart,” it is as per­ti­nent to the en­tire col­lec­tion as it is to the par­tic­u­lar mo­ment that in­spires it. This beau­ti­fully pro­duced vol­ume is a wel­come in­tro­duc­tion to a clas­sic poet’s work.

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