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The Gift Paperback – August 1, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Hafiz, a secret Sufi, came to prominence in his day as a writer of love poems. That love transformed into an all-consuming passion for union with the divine. In The Gift, Daniel Ladinsky bestows on us the impassioned yet whimsical strains of Hafiz's ecstasy. Never forced or awkward, Ladinsky's Hafiz whispers in your ear and pounds in your chest, naming God in a hundred metaphors.
I once asked a bird,
"How is it that you fly in this gravity
Of darkness?"
She responded,
"Love lifts
Me."
Like Fitzgerald's version of Khayyam's Rubaiyat, the language of The Gift strikes a contemporary chord, resonating in the reader's mind and then in the heart. Ladinsky's language is plain, fresh, playful--dancing with an expert cadence that invites and surprises. If it is true, as Hafiz says, that a poet is someone who can pour light into a cup, reading Ladinsky's Hafiz is like gulping down the sun. --Brian Bruya

From Booklist

Less well known in the U.S. than his Sufi predecessor, Rumi, Hafiz (Shams-ud-din Muhammad) is also worthy of attention, and Ladinsky's free translations should help see that he gets it. Hafiz is so beloved in Iran that he outsells the Koran. Many know his verses by heart and recite them with gusto. And gusto is appropriate to this passionate, earthy poet who melds mind, spirit, and body in each of his usually brief pensees. Ladinsky has deliberately chosen a loose and colloquial tone for this collection, which might grate on the nerves of purists but makes Hafiz come vividly alive for the average reader. "You carry / All the ingredients / To turn your life into a nightmare--/ Don't mix them!" he advises, and "Bottom line: / Do not stop playing / These beautiful / Love / Games." Nothing is too human for Hafiz to celebrate, for in humanity he finds the prospect of God. In everything from housework to lovemaking, he celebrates the spiritual possibilities of life. A fine and stirring new presentation of one of the world's great poets. Patricia Monaghan
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Compass; Gift edition (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140195815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140195811
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This is the 3rd copy of this book I've bought.
Carol Boyd
The most beautiful words ever written about God, love, devotion, and joy.
Luluslist
Daniel Ladinsky is the best translator of Hafiz by far.
TheUrbanRecluse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

167 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Hafiz has long been one of my favorite poets. I first discovered him when I was in college via Goethe and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I've been readng his poems ever since. Since I am (alas!) without Parsi, I'm unable to read Hafiz in the original, and must rely upon the kindness of translators.
Daniel Ladinsky has done an interesting job of rendering Hafiz's verse into English. Ladinsky has an ear for rhythm and he strikes me as an individual with deep spiritual sensibilities. When he renders one of Hafiz's couplets as "The body a tree./God a wind", one senses that there's more going into this translation than just philological expertise. Landinsky, like Hafiz, is a mystic.
That spiritual bond with Hafiz, as well as a shared joy in the sheer vitality of creation, makes Landinsky's renderings light-hearted, in the sense that they shimmer with what Hafiz would call God's Light. Some of my favorite examples: "Whenever/God lays His glance/Life starts/Clapping"; "What is the beginning of/Happiness?/It is to stop being/So religious"; "All the talents of God are within you./How could this be otherwise/When your soul/Derived from His/Genes!"
But while I can appreciate the lyrical way in which Ladinsky trys to express Hafiz's insights, I do wonder about the reliability of the translations. They're loaded with modernisms that are somewhat grating after a while: we're derived from God's "genes," the sun is "in drag," characters in the poems "dig potatoes," the soul visits a "summer camp." Moreover, many of the renderings make Hafiz sound suspiciously like a Zen master throwing out koans (an obvious example of this is the poem Ladinsky titles ""Two Giant Fat People".
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161 of 177 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Living in Iran years ago, I first encountered the poet Hafiz as a beloved Iranian folk figure. I have read with pleasure and an open heart many versions of his poems, both in Persian (Farsi) and in English. It was with high expectations because of reviews that I bought this book, only to find Mr. Ladinsky's poems literally unrelated to the original Hafiz. Instead, based on his own explanation, they appear to be simply a product of his imagination. The author has no background in Iranian culture and speaks no Persian. Instead, he obviously uses the commercially successful style of Coleman Barks (of Rumi notoriety) by reading someone else's word-for-word translation and then creating new verses, the intent being to "capture the spirit" of the original. But these verses are so distant from Hafiz that one wonders how they qualify even as "renderings," an amorphous term for Mr. Barks' practice that allows the bypassing of usual literary standards.
Rendering is much less demanding intellectually than translating as well as an easier way of becoming published, and it contains a built-in literary defense mechanism (the plea of subjectivity) against criticism for poor scholarship or inauthenticity. Rendering is not new. Before the Iranian Revolution, one task of Iranian academia was the separation of authentic work of Hafiz from a mass of imitation poetry falsely attributed to him. Now comes this work that bears substantially more resemblance to the tone of Mr. Barks, its apparent stylistic model, than to Hafiz. Even giving the author the benefit of the doubt for sincere devotion and industry, this book and his other two similar works best fit into the category of "spiritual opportunism.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A. Windsor on December 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you want to read the poetry of Daniel Ladinsky, buy The Gift. A lot of people seem to like Ladinsky's poetry. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that these are translations of poetry by Hafiz. They're not. They're all-new, all-original English language poems by Ladinsky. I don't know why he publishes his own work under the name of Hafiz.

If you want to read the poetry of Hafiz in English translation, consider Hafiz of Shiraz by Peter Avery.
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54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Like millions of Persians I sat on my grandfather's knee and listened to Rumi and Hafez. I was and am struck by what I have read in The Gift. Are these Hafez's poems or are they just Ladinsky's? The essence of Hafez is truth, beauty, humor, endearment to the Self, and light, above all - a freeing whirling light. With that in mind, after some soul searching, I must admit this book is wonderful, a unique portrait of Hafez. I have never seen this great Persian Master more glorious in the English language.
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117 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Ladinsky on April 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought I might step into the middle of a blurb/reader's review war that seems active, at times, around this book.

There is an essay I wrote and published in an earlier edition of the "The Subject Tonight Is Love: Sixty Wild and Sweet Poems of Hafiz," VERSIONS by Daniel Ladinsky, that was called -- My Portrait of Hafiz, as that is what I feel my work with Hafiz really is, my unique portrait of him. A portrait based on my study of thousands of pages of stories and poems that are attributed to Hafiz. And this book "The Gift" was first offered to Penguin with the word VERSIONS on the cover rather than the word translations, for I have never claimed my work with Hafiz is a traditional -- scholarly -- translation, for how could it be for I do not know or speak Farsi (Persian) at all fluently, though at times I have worked with several translators who do know Farsi as their first language. Though once the book (The Gift) got to Penguin, that is into the hands and minds of the very literate, some there saw and knew -- as any good dictionary will tell you -- that a primary definition of the word translation is: "A written or spoken rendering, an interpretation of the significance of a work in another language..." And thus the word VERSIONS was changed to translations. Also, I feel that the deeper one gets into the study of Hafiz the less of a scholarly foundation there really is to have any intelligent debate about what he may or may not have actually said; thus all we truly have of Hafiz in ANY language is a VERSION. We unfortunately don't even know when Hafiz was actually born or when he died. No doubt there is the establishment's view of Hafiz, but I have never been one to fully trust a bunch of religious or cerebral conservatives.
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