The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat and Western "Ventriloquism"

There's a great article by Marina Warner in the London Review of Books about the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám by Edward FitzGerald--a work that is better understood as "channeling" than translating and that is remarkably reminiscent of the way the Thousand and One Nights was assimilated into Western literature.

The consideration of FitzGerald's--apparently quite inspired--rendering of Khayyam's work turns into a reflection on the act of translation itself (something I'm alway fascinated with) and on the way Western authors have spoken through Eastern alter-egos. To some degree, FitzGerald seems to have well aware of what he was doing. I enjoyed this quote: 
...FitzGerald wrote: ‘But at all Cost, a Thing must live: with a transfusion of one’s own worse Life if one can’t retain the Original’s better. Better a live Sparrow than a stuffed Eagle.’

(found via the Literary Saloon).