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The Gift Paperback – August 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews 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
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: 5.5 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 (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

186 of 199 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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197 of 216 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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62 of 65 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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56 of 62 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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55 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A. Z. F. on November 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Several Amazon folk have asked me to jump into the Ladinsky debate and comment on what Ladinsky is doing and whether his work is worth reading. So let me come right out and say that Dan Ladinsky's book is perhaps the most inexcusably excruciating book bearing the name "translation" I have ever had the displeasure to read. This review will indeed be about the book, but it will also be an act of revenge for what I went through while reading it. It is a culturally narcissistic, colossally unintelligent act of literary charlatanry which derives its success largely from exploiting (and grossly perpetuating) some of the most shameful traits of the American public: ignorance of Islam and Islamic languages, unbridled consumerism, poor literary sensibility, New Age tripe and shallow thinking.

Normally, my online reviews of translations take the translation in question and then compare parts of it to the original (I do not do reviews of translations whose original language I am not competent in.) However, in the case of Ladinsky's work, this is just not possible because there really *aren't any* originals being translated! Ladinsky's passages do not correspond to anything Hafiz wrote in Persian. At all. I'm not a Hafiz scholar, but by now I have read probably a couple thousand lines of Hafiz' poetry in Persian, and know a good bit of it by heart. I'm not saying this just to brag. My point is that, given this, as I perused the volume, I could reasonably have expected to at least recognize *some* of what Ladinsky was translating. I didn't.

And it's not that these translations are just so free that I didn't recognize which Persian text they corresponded to.
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