Customer Reviews: The Poems of Hafez
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on August 10, 2007
At last an English translation of Hafez that isn't a "version" based on someone else's translation (from German perhaps, or Victorian English, or the famous but rather unwieldy Col. Wilberforce Clarke crib), or like the versions that take a line or two and "channel" a new poem almost out of whole cloth, which pretend to be translations but are really original, warm and toasty spiritual takes, but have only a glancing relationship with anything close to Hafez-like.

No, these are solidly Hafez, but also musically poetry, and for decades of wondering about him, loving him from afar and through really corrigated glass, I find this book satisfies as no other has before.

I've heard that in Iran people open Hafez the way one casts astrology charts or throws an I Ching reading, so I've been doing that with this book from time to time, not necessarily with superstitious seriousness, but still, at a certain poem randomly thumbed, lines pop out and images resonate the way a good consciousness-booster does, with Tarot cards or those roadside psychic readings (no, I've never had one).

Plus, we get the luxurious meanings, now cast in poetry-friendly English, and sometimes reaching real poetry in themselves, with only a few infelicitous moments here and there, which strike me as being the best one can do in English with a frantically difficult meaning in Farsi, for which Hafez is so famous. Even Persians may not quite understand his drift, even though taxi drivers may quote him at length today!

I highly recommend this beautifully published book, with decal edges and everything. My only reservation is that the concordance with the original Persian text could have also referred us to the Wilberforce Clarke page numbers for a more indepth reading, since he goes into multiple meanings for some of the words... But this is truly a minor and even persnickity criticism.

So dive in and taste the deep wine of Hafez' amazing spiritual songs, afresh and faithful for the first time.
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on January 6, 2007
The Persian poetry of Hafez has been respected and enjoyed for more than five hundred years. Now a new translation into English by academician Reza Ordoubadian successful presents the language and imagery of Hafez to a new generation of readers who will find his verse to be as fluent, enjoyable, thoughtful, inspiring, relevant and universal today as they were when originally set down so long ago. With the inclusion of an extensive 'Notes to the Poems' section, "The Poems Of Hafez" is comprised of 202 'ghazals' and is a seminal and highly recommended addition to academic and community library poetry collections for both scholarship and the non-specialist general reader. 'Hundred and Sixty-Eight': This garment I wear, better in the pawn of wine:/this mindless booklet, better drowned in wine./Since I wasted life-when I reexamined time:/better in the corner of a tavern, tippled and gone./Since rational rumination is far from darvishi,/better heart on fire and eyes full of water./I will not speak about the condition of the ascetic to the people:/if I ever tell this story, it better be with lyre and the violin./Since the affairs of the heavens are foul, from this side/better lust for Saghi with wine in hand./Such a lover as you: I'll never abandon;/if I am to pull a burden, better the weight of your tresses./You are old, hafez: leave the tavern;/rendi and lusting best when you're young.
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on July 10, 2009
The vast majority of English translations of Hafez have been dire -- either literal and unreadable or intolerably free. There are, however, three that I would recommend. Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs (a distinguished British poet) produced a version of 'Thirty Poems' in 1952, that was reprinted recently but appears to have gone out of print again. This version is the best for literary quality, and has an enormously helpful introduction; but many readers will want more of Hafez than this. At present the real competition is between this translation by Ordoubadian of 200 poems and the complete Hafez (486 ghazals) that Peter Avery has now (2007) produced on his own. Avery's version is more literal and in this sense more reliable; it reads well, but (to my ear at least) Ordoubadian has produced the more natural-sounding English. All these versions are highly recommendable, though those who can read French should turn to the version by C.-H. de Fouchecour (Verdier, 2006), which reads better than any of the English versions and is provided with far fuller, and enormously helpful, annotation.
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on July 5, 2010
I have long been a "fan" of Hafez translations, since I have a little familiarity with the original Persian and have often wondered how Hafez could possibly be translated into English. First, the ideas are so strange to a Westerner; second, the metaphors are sometimes so strange (that "sugar-eating parrot" has caused a world of trouble); third, the sound of the Persian is so important.

So there are a number of people who have failed: Reza Saberi translated all of Hafez into English, but was hamstrung by his weak command of the English language; Gertrude Bell had a try at it, and wound up with something sounding like Victorian romantic poetry; A. J. Arberry published some "decent" translations by many hands. Most recently, Peter Avery is the latest to try his hand at "the impossible."

This particular translation is helpful in that it includes a big chunk of Hafez, but less helpful in that it simply doesn't translate most of the difficult terms, but plunks them into the English. The average English reader has absolutely no clue what a "naa-Darvish" might be, much less what it means that the term is deployed ironically.

Still, I think that progress is being made. I can understand not even trying to translate some of the most difficult terms: how would you translate "quark" into Swahili? But what we really need is a well-written introduction that clearly explains the strange world and the strange metaphors of Hafez.

After that, may the best translator win!
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VINE VOICEon October 22, 2009
This new English translation of 202 of the ghazals (poems) of the fourteenth century Iranian poet Hafez is surely a significant step toward making Hafez' poetry accessible to the English-speaking peoples of the world. Hafez clearly ranks among world's greatest poets, whose works should be known to everyone. This is unlikely to happen, because it is extremely difficult to translate poetry into poetry, and the difficulty increases more than linearly with greater differences in language and culture between the poet and the intended audience.

Dr. Ordoubadian includes an introduction which deals with some of the difficulties of translating Iranian poetry into English poetry. His examples, however, are all from Hafez, which is good for the serious student of Persian poetry, but much more difficult for the lay reader. I give below an example of the difficulty of translating poetry, which I hope will be easier for the rest of us to understand. It is from a poem written in a language MUCH more closely related to English, and involves no problems of cultural difference. The middle lines, labeled LITERAL, show how someone with a German-English dictionary and little actual knowledge of German might translate it, e.g., translating Das kommt as `The comes' instead of `It comes.' The translation labeled POETIC expresses, in good English, what Heinrich Heine expressed so beautifully in German, AND it scans properly in iambic trimeter, like Heine's.

GERMAN: . Ein .Marchen . aus alten Zeiten
LITERAL: . .One picture . .out of . old times
POETIC: A . scene . . . from .olden times

GERMAN: .Das kommt . mir . .nicht . aus . . dem .Sinn
LITERAL: . The comes .to me . .not . out of . the . mind
POETIC: . . .Keeps running thru my mind.

This is what Dr. Ordoubadian has attempted, with considerable success, to do with the poetry of Hafez. I expect that this translation, or maybe a later edition thereof, perhaps with more of the 486 ghazals of the Khanlari edition translated, will become the recognized standard of excellence for English renderings of Hafez, and will be a significant factor in bringing Hafez to the world-wide audience he deserves..
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on July 30, 2009
A scholarly interpretation of the Divans of Hafez, with lots of footnotes. The English translations are quite good and enjoyable to read. I enjoy reading them slowly to savor and get high on the vintage. Did I say intoxicating?
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on April 5, 2010
Because English is the only language in which I'm fluent, I read a lot of poetry in translation and this might be the worst translation I've ever run across. I cannot gauge whether it might be a triumph of literalism - or of scholarship - but it is assuredly very bad poetry. Really, it scans like something run through Babel Fish:

"My purer soul yearned for her lowly dimples, but
my hands were led to the higher tuft of my beloved's hair."

"Never heard a more delicious voice than the words of love:
a gift lingering in the orbiting colossal dome."

Not convinced? Well, try this, from ghazal 27:

"I spread my ashes on the path of her feet: she skirts me!
I plead, 'Turn your heart to me.' She turns away!
That delicate face, she exhibits her face like a flower:
I beg, 'Open your tunic!' She covers her tunic tight."

Hafiz is beloved throughout the world, not just in Iran. That would not happen if his work was filled with these tired, trite images and clunky transitions.

I would give this book one star except that the notes are interesting and informative and I quite like them.
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on June 5, 2007
Reviewed by William Phenn for Reader Views (5/07)

I normally start all my reviews with a bit about the author. Usually a little background to what he or she did up to the point of writing this particular book. In this case, I'm afraid I can't write a lot about the author because he has been dead for five centuries. But without going into a Persian history lesson (since I am least qualified on Persian history), I will say that Hafez has had his share of notoriety in Persia.

I elected instead, to write about the translator of the writer's works, Mr. Reza Ordoubadian. Born in Iran (Persia) he is very well-versed in Persian and English poetry and prose. He teaches English literature at an American university and understands the nuances of Hafez's language.

Mr. Ordoubadian has, in his translation, conveyed the meaning, melody and spirit of Hafez in this volume. He has succeeded where others have failed. Most translators of Hafez have either correctly conveyed one or the other; but Reza has brought in all three. Reza Ordoubadian has managed to bring out the essence of Hafez's writing by capturing his meaning, melody and spirit and relating it in this very complex volume.

"The Poems of Hafez" are littered with Persian words and without some sort of explanation, could cause a lay person a bit of a problem. Mr. Ordoubadian gives the reader a bibliography and many notes in the back of the book to explain certain areas of this intriguing volume. He has written a very well-thought-out series of explanations for the symbology as well. Reza has made this translation as complete as anyone could have, right up to and including a chart for the "Correspondence of Ghazal Numbers." This chart is for anyone that would like to compare this work with the original Persian version.

As my final note I would just like to add that although this poetry was complex and somewhat obtuse, I found it to be intriguing. I would not recommend it to the average reader; but to someone who enjoys the teachings of Hafez; it would be worth buying. This book gave me an insight into a 14th -century character I had never heard of. It has sparked my interest and I would be inclined to know more. With its very nice binding, its fancy pages and the cover art, it will attract your attention. Will "The Poems of Hafez" capture your mind, I can't say; but I gave it a B+.

Book received free of charge.
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on June 5, 2014
If I had to chose a book or a piece of work that is absolutely untranslatable, it would have to be the poems of Hafez. His poems, when you hear them in the original language Farsi, are so breath-takingly beautiful, you cannot believe that somebody can create such words and thoughts! So I was very nervous about this book, but I have to say the translations are really wonderful. They are really to the point and the author magically manages to retain the original meaning but also to write beautiful poetry at the same time. This is a very demanding task!! So I can highly recommend this book to anyone. You should buy this book and do a proper Hafez reading :) Which means you will ask yourself any question, and then flip through the pages and randomly open it. The first poem your eyes fall upon (either left or right page) should be used for interpretation or as an answer. Enjoy, and while you do so, please also read the poems of Rumi (Mowlana) !!
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on February 21, 2011
I am very grateful to Mr. Ordubadian for his diligence in translating this wonderful poet's work, but too often his English phrasing is wooden and impenetrable, requiring multiple readings to even get an understanding of what he means, let alone understand the metaphorical content of the work. The endnotes are certainly valuable in providing context or deeper meaning, but having to flip to end of the book interrupts the poem itself.

I am very impressed with the translator's efforts to explain the mystical significance of the poems themselves, but less so with the sometimes confusing rendering of the gender of the subject, and particularly in the lack of explanation for the term "Saghi," which I only know from prior experience to be a wine-boy, and typically one who was available for sexual favors. Failing to explain a crucial term from Persian antiquity that could influence the meaning of the poem struck me as sloppy.

In much the same way as Fitzgerald's translation of Omar Khayyam has its praises and criticisms, this translation of Hafez has its limitations borne of what the translator carries with him; I find the poems interesting and full of glimpses of ancient Persian life, but ultimately I think they should be read side-by-side with another translation, or even with the original Persian and a dictionary for the full meaning to be understood. I applaud the translator for his effort, and hope he revisits his work in the future to improve it.
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