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Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson (All and Everything/First) Hardcover – March 23, 2006
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From the Publisher
Gurdjieff wrote Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson from 1924 through 1931, and continued in later years to make significant revisions. Before his death in 1949 he entrusted the book and his other writings to Jeanne de Salzmann, his closest pupil, with instructions for future publication. Mme. de Salzmann had followed Gurdjieff for over 30 years and played a central role in his decision in the l940s to organize the practice of his teaching.
Gurdjieff wrote Beelzebub's Tales in Russian and Armenian, and the original manuscript was typed and revised in Russian. An English translation was produced in successive steps at the Prieuré. It consisted initially of a word-by-word interlinear translation with each word in English placed above the corresponding Russian word in the typescript. Reworked by different pupils at different times, the translation was finally edited by the well-known author and editor A.R. Orage, mostly in New York. Although he worked closely with Russian speakers and, indeed, Gurdjieff himself, Orage knew no Russian and was unable to read Gurdjieff's original text.
The English version was first published in 1950, just a few months after Gurdjieff died. He had overruled objections that the translation needed more work, insisting that the time had come to launch his ideas into the mainstream of Western thinking. As the English text was the initial publication of the book in any language, it was assumed by many readers to have been written or specifically approved by Gurdjieff. Although a prefatory note stated that the original was written in Russian and Armenian, the significance of this was easily disregarded in the absence of a published edition of the original Russian text. The note also stated that the author had personally directed the translation, and Gurdjieff had often been present when the translation was read aloud to English-speaking pupils and visitors.
What few readers knew was that, in fact, all of Gurdjieff's work in completing the book was in Russian. His spoken English, like his spoken French, was effective and memorably colorful for his purposes as a teacher in conversation with his pupils, but since his arrival in Western Europe in the early 1920s, he had not taken the time to master either language. He could not have judged, much less approved, the English text and had to rely on Mme. de Salzmann, who was fluent in Russian and English, for reassurance that the meaning was preserved. Gurdjieff did not approve the writing style of the English translation.
Although before his death Gurdjieff had insisted on immediate publication, he reportedly acknowledged that the English book was a "rough diamond" and asked Mme. de Salzmann to revise it at a later time. Her first priority was to prepare the French edition based on the Russian manuscript, a task that was not completed until 1956. Thereafter, she began work with selected American pupils to revise the English language version. The primary aim was to bring it closer in substance to the Russian text, using the widely admired and well accepted French edition as a model. A secondary but important aim was to have it correspond more faithfully in style to Gurdjieff's Russian writing, particularly to make it as clear and understandable as the Russian. Mme. de Salzmann herself worked for a number of years with the editorial team and then left them to complete the project. The revision, despite interruptions, was finally completed more than 30 years later.
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Top Customer Reviews
About the content: Gurdjieff's system is often lumped in with many other fads and gurus' elixirs under the moniker "new age". Which is ironic, considering that these ways of being are apparently thousands of years old. But what feel-good new age movement starts with the axiom that human beings are basically in varying degrees of a hypnotic state, possessing only a shred of what Western philosophies call free will? (and that shred only "awakens" sometimes in "peak experiences" when the three centers work together--mortal danger, sexual union, etc., when the ego drops away).Read more ›
This is one of the most difficult books I've ever read (and I have a Master's degree in English) but, having read it three times now, judge it to be one of the most rewarding for the effort one puts into it. Gurdjieff dictated this book aloud to a secretary and often had parts of it read aloud in group meetings; if he found a concept too easily grasped, he'd re-write that passage to make it more difficult. It compares to nothing else, though if you can imagine a combination of Swedenborg's "Heaven and Hell," Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine," the "Thousand and One Nights" (Arabian Nights), Nietzsche's "Thus Sprach Zarathustra," and "Don Quixote" you might have a little idea of the scope of this book.
Part of the difficulty of the book is simply Gurdjieff's deliberately archaic prose style, with long sentences that sometimes run for half a page and which require the reader to go back to the beginning of the sentence to find a single verb or noun referent that belongs to the concluding word at the end. If you're familiar with prose written prior to the 18th century, such as the works of Shakespeare, you'll have an easier time of it. Gurdjieff also makes up dozens of words, but usually their meaning is pretty clear from the context. (The final chapter, "From the Author," abandons most of these neologisms and is the easiest part of the book to read.)
Gurdjieff's ideas themselves, when put into plain English, are simple, logical (in their context) and powerful.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a "helpful" revision of the ("corrected for errata only") previous version, which was a correction of the first published version, 1951. Read morePublished 3 months ago by benjamin guile
This book if correctly read and contemplated will give a new set of eyes that will help to see the world without any prejudice or partiality. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
For explaining the maddenig violence of the times, who better then Gurdjieff?Published 5 months ago by Happy with amazon
If you spend a year looking for wisdom and spiritual insight on the back of cereal boxes, you are bound to find something - because the process of studying is a huge contributor to... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kelly Snyder
Great read. Unfortunately this snook has lots of punctuation missing that make the book hard to read.Published 6 months ago by CM
Very strange, very interesting. Not for every taste but if it suits yours, strap yourself in and go for it! Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michael Bournas-Ney