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New Title: "Hafez for Dummies"
on December 3, 2001
I do not mean to imply that the readers who enjoy Ladinsky's versions of "Hafez" lack intelligence. However, I think these so-called renderings of Hafez can easily be compared to the "_____ for Dummies" types of books on the market. Ladinsky is not a bad poet, but to attribute this poetry to Hafez really does a great disservice to the original--as well as to the readers who will never understand how simplistic Ladinsky's renditions are in comparison to the genius of the real Hafez.
I am an American who has studied Persian culture for the past twenty years. I have also studied the language (Farsi) off and on for 15 years. I have been to Iran, and have experienced the incredible beauty of recitations of Hafez' poetry, and have been moved to tears. I have visited Hafez' tomb in Shiraz, where I bought my first copy of the Divan-e Hafez in Farsi, with some of the qhazals translated to English.
Since my return, I have been painstakingly (and lovingly) reading Hafez' poetry, looking up the words I don't understand, asking friends questions about the multiple meanings and interpretations of his poems, falling asleep with the book beside me and awakening with its impression upon my skin.
Hafez is extremely complex, and truly impossible to translate adequately. It causes me great pain to see someone with virtually no knowledge of the original, write a few verses based on someone else's translations, change the structure and words into something completely unrecognizable as Hafez, call it a "translation," and make a profit in the process. Ladinsky would be much more honest if he published the book with himself as the author, who has been inspired by Hafez.
I agree with the earlier reviewer, Ali, who is saddened by the fact that so few in the West will ever begin to understand Hafez. Indeed, all of the reviewers of Ladinsky's work that have been critical have had a working knowledge of Farsi and exposure to Hafez in the original. The only positive reviews have been by those who cannot begin to comprehend what they're missing.
I would suggest that Ladinsky either put in the time and effort and learn Farsi well enough to truly grasp and convey Hafez' work, or label his work something other than a "translation." The road to truth and knowledge can be a long, arduous, but rewarding journey.