Who is the bestselling poet in the United States? Allen Ginsburg? Robert Frost? Walt Whitman? How about Jalal al-Din Rumi? Rumi-mania has struck hard, inspiring rock bands, high fashion, modern dance, and opera. All this from the son of an Islamic preacher born in the foothills of the Pamir Mountains in 1207. If you'd like to separate the hype from the facts, look no further than Franklin Lewis's pièce de résistance, Rumi: Past and Present, East and West
, the last word in Rumi scholarship. The first half is a biography of sorts, in which Lewis examines the available information about Rumi's father, his mentors, their teachings, and Rumi's own activities. In the second half, he takes up Rumi, himself, his writings, his message, and the Mevlevi order that grew up around him. He summarizes Western scholarship on Rumi, and perhaps most interesting for the poetry lover, he evaluates translations of Rumi, going back as far as the early 19th century and right up to Coleman Barks and Deepak Chopra. For an academic, Lewis writes with a refreshing swiftness, aplomb, and wit--characteristics Rumi would appreciate. --Brian Bruya
From Library Journal
Jal?l al-Din Rumi, the 13th-century Persian Muslim scholar and Sufi mystic, has been a best-selling poet in America in recent years. While his name is commonly associated with images of Whirling Dervishes (practitioners of the Sufi order known as the Mawlawi, which he founded), Rumi was also a professor of several medieval sciences. And he taught tolerance. In fact, when the United Nations declared 1995 "A Year of Tolerance," it cited Rumi's calls for tolerance among people of all persuasions and races. Indeed, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists attended Rumi's funeral. His inspiring mystical odes also transcended boundaries, especially his main work, Mathnawi, which highlights aspects of Sufism and how they relate to the world. In this excellent book, Lewis (Middle Eastern studies, Emory Univ.) presents a comprehensive overview of the Sufi poet-philosopher and his influence, past and present. He includes a wealth of information about Rumi's teachers, followers, writings and teachings, and influence in the Muslim world and in the West, as well as new translations of his poetry and prose. This definitive biography of an already well-documented figure is highly recommended for all collections.-Ali Houissa. Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY
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