Saturday, April 21, 2007

Unravelling the Rubaiyat

I never buy books in hardcover, but I made an exception when I purchased a copy of 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' at a bookstore. I fell in love with the binding, the typesetting and the illustrations. All this for a mere INR 295, considering that the Rubaiyat is the most celebrated work of Omar Khayyam. What thrilled me even more was the fact that this particular copy had two successive editions of Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat.

We all know that even the most learned and objective translation is a scarce representation of the original work. Khayyam wrote in Persian in the 12th century. It is said that some of the quatrains were not actually written by Khayyam but were attributed to him. To my knowledge, there exist upto five editions of the translation. There are subtle differences between the first and second editions. It is quite possible that Fitzgerald added his ideas and possibly wrote a few of the quatrains himself. This is true especially in the later editions. The challenge thus lies in guessing which of the verses were actually penned by Khayyam himself.

Khayyam was a man of reason and scientific temperament.He was a mathematician, alchemist, doctor and poet all rolled into one. People often think of Khayyam as 'a sufi mystic', something ironic as Khayyam appears to have nothing but scorn for mysticism. I am inclined to believe that Khayyam was a skeptic (I will go far enough to suggest that he was probably agnostic). I sometimes use this verse as a mechanism to defend my agnosticism.

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their mouths are stopt with Dust.


Religion and controversey aside, the Rubaiyat is the most sensual treat a poet can deliver. It is rich in melancholic romanticism and has a charming yet witty pessimism,with roses and wine strewn all over its lines to claim that mortality is merely a consequence and not a choice.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Living to Read the Tale

There are some who live to write and others who live to read. I have been reading 'Living to Tell the Tale' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez for almost the entire semester and I still have 300 pages left! Nevertheless I claim enough qualification to make the following statement :

Marquez's work is the culmination of literary genius and empathetic observation stemming from a a compassionate understanding of the human condition. He mixes wit, myth and conviction to create stories that are more tangible than reality. It is thus not surprising that his work draws heavily from his life. There are few writers who can exude the kind of lyrical charm that crosses linguistic barriers and glitches in translation.

ps: I'm still working on it. I promise a full-fledged scoop when I'm done.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Let us Walk in the Clouds if the Earth is too Bare...

Utopia is real; as real as a circle of dust drawn around the abyss of human imagination with the idea of curtailing its reach.

Diva's Doomsday Prediction

This post has been inspired in part by the content of the preceding one and in part by all the talk of climate change. There has been so much finger-pointing and name-calling that people seemed to have overlooked the stark prospect of doomsday. The end is nearer than we think!

Move over Nostradamus, thy predilections are archaic!

Listen with care fellow beings, the end cometh close. On a hapless day in a hapless season in some hapless century not chronologically far from the present it will come- the hour of doom. It shall not spare a single soul from its desolate blow. The earth will be a shrunken monster; gnarling, hungry and intoxicated by thirst. Men and women(if they still exist) will roam from terrain to terrain, their backs bent from the weight of their material wealth, in search of a morsel to eat and a drop to drink. The 'Oracle'(aka Big Brother) will deem that all creatures must inhabit a bunker so they may not behold the coming of doom. For decades will humans throng underground bunkers; feeding on synthetic food and liquid, not daring to look to the sky for fear of going blind. One fine day, when all the 'Oracles' are dead, human curiosity will give in. Out of their bunkers these creatures will stroll to see the earth intact, just as they left it. The day of doom will be an orchestration, vile enough to hurt narcissistic pride.

Doomsday will not be the day the human race breaths its last. It will be the day that human stupidity supercedes all wit.